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Gov. Lamont folds on state employee raises as union airs commercial supporting wage increase

With Connecticut’s budget on the rocks and a state employee pay increase just weeks away, SEIU 1199 launched a commercial on television and social media saying some politicians are “going to take away my wages so they can balance the budget.”

The “Don’t Call Me a Hero” commercial features state employees from the Department of Developmental Services and the and the Department of Children and Families citing their experiences during the COVID-19 pandemic and telling the public to contact their lawmakers.

“This is how you treat essential workers?” one employee with the Southbury Training School asks.

State employees are scheduled to receive the second half of a roughly $353 million pay raise in July, the start of a fiscal year that is already estimated to be facing a $2.2 billion deficit.

The commercial comes as Connecticut faces an projected $7 billion budget deficit over the next three years and 531,000 state residents filed for unemployment claims amid the coronavirus shutdown of non-essential businesses.

But the job losses affected essential workers in the private sector as well, as hospitals have had to cut hours and furlough nurses and layoff other employees to deal with a severe decline in surgeries and other in-patient treatments during the pandemic.

The Connecticut Department of Labor measured a loss of 45,200 jobs in the Educational and Health Services sector in April, a decrease of 13.1 percent. The DOL cautioned, however, that their latest unemployment report was “severely underestimated” due to issues in data gathering.

Gov. Ned Lamont said a press conference that he has not had productive talks with union leaders regarding suspension of the wage increases. 

“We’ve had good discussions, but not productive discussions,” Lamont said. 

Lamont said he offered to keep raises for front-line workers, those in nursing homes and corrections but told union leaders he believed other employees could hold off on receiving a wage increase.

“I can’t see giving everyone in state government a raise right now. I would have put it off, I think you should put it off.” Lamont said.

But the governor said he does not have the power to suspend those raises. “No. I tried. I can’t find any way to do that,” Lamont said. “We don’t have a lot of leverage under the contract for another year or so.”

The 2017 SEBAC Agreement negotiated between Gov. Dannel Malloy and the State Employee Bargaining Agent Coalition, offered the raises and layoff protection for state employees until July of 2021 in exchange for increased medical premiums and copays and a new retirement tier. 

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo temporarily suspended a 2 percent pay increase for state employee in April and Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf froze the pay of roughly 9,000 state employees, saying they could take vacation time or unemployment.

There have been numerous actions by states and state universities across the country to reign in labor costs as they face difficult budgetary problems due to the pandemic. 

The commercial that just began airing on June 8 certainly appears to be a rejection to the idea that state workers might have to wait for raises.

The commercial also comes on the heels of the “Money Bags and Body Bags” protest organized by unions, including SEIU 1199, where 40 cars drove through Greenwich honking their horns and placing fake body bags outside people’s homes.

The protest was meant to draw attention to the unions’ call for increasing the tax rate of Connecticut’s top earners to support Connecticut’s budget deficits.  

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A contractual wage increase for unionized state employees — totaling roughly $353 million — officially went into effect today, as Connecticut faces an unprecedented unemployment and budgetary crisis. Governor Lamont and the General Assembly have chosen once again to cower in the face of special interest groups instead of upholding fairness for taxpayers.   Even as Gov. Lamont closed 36,000 ...

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(10) Comments

  1. Carly Johnson

    July 1, 2020 5:10 pm

    This is the worst. DCF complaining about raises. Ridiculous!!
    They were considered essential workers because of the nature of their jobs but only 5 to 10% of them were only called for their jobs while the rest were sitting at home enjoying their huge biweekly paycheck not doing anything. They couldn’t even do home visits because some of the workers complained and threaten to sue their own agency because they might be exposed to the virus.

  2. Manny

    June 15, 2020 5:30 am

    Like this is something new in CT. As a government you have to be able to take a strike when dealing with a union. This state never does and like any other bully, the union will not back down.

    The pendulum had swung way too far on the union side, but out leaders have been lacking a backbone for decades. I do not expect any reversal of this any time soon.

    Govt. should be able to fire union workers like private industry.

  3. Thad Stewart

    June 12, 2020 7:44 pm

    In tough economic times EVERYONE has to tighten their belt. The unions are the problem. Plain and simple. the workers can’t figure out why they are getting screwed coming and going. Well, James R. Hoffa and the MOB wrote down the rules, and the unions are just playing by them. A certain percentage of every dollar goes to some do nuthin’ fat cat who has not worked an honest day in their lives. When are the workers going to wake up to that simple fact. And if by chance, I am of kilter, where then does all that money go?

  4. Desmond McGlynn

    June 11, 2020 12:43 pm

    Gov. Lamont was selected because of his spineless and congruity to help the powers gat what they want, unlimited financial support, lower wage illegal (New Haven- sanct. city) while most citizens of Connecticut suffer under his feckless leadership. And like a leader who is exposed as weak and without real convictions, will take it out on the more defenseless, in hope so prove he/she is in control. For example, the endless Wuhan Virus emergency protocols he enacted. Mom and pop shops are shut, but major corps are “essential.” It is a shame so many CT citizens are giving over their rights, just as the ancient Egyptians during the famine in the Book of Genesis.

    Once we lose our freedoms, and we have lost many, we all not get them back. Tolls of for thee, not for me; it will be that if you work for the State, you will get a free pass through tolls. The Unions are going to face a depleted budget and a bankrupted state. I hope enough citizens are aware of this and will resist any tax increases that will be needed to keep up with the real powers that run CT, i. e. the unions.

  5. David S Moelling

    June 11, 2020 12:00 pm

    So the Governor feels he has nearly unlimited power to impose restrictions on anyone else including waiving key parts of unemployement insurance law, but somehow his emergency powers cant even delay contract raises?

    We knew this would be the case didn’t we

    • Rob Kroe

      June 12, 2020 5:16 pm

      So it means nothing that the unions gave back countless millions upon millions, and accepted no raises more years than we got them. And what about the tax revenue we pay. These comments show the ignorance of people who are either wealthy or not smart enough to be in a union.

    • Dc Christopher

      June 22, 2020 5:49 am

      Be aware the state didn’t give them raises a couple years ago because citizens complained.they went out the backdoor and gave them $2000 bonuses isn’t this a raise. Your state legislature cannot be trusted.

  6. Karen

    June 11, 2020 8:15 am

    This is absurd!!! I am essential and work for a CT company. My raise was taken away immediately with the start of the oandemic. I since then have been cut 10% in my current pay.
    Total BS! This is greedy and has to atop. Evidently we are not all in this together.

  7. Cherie

    June 10, 2020 11:13 pm

    Even Lamont said pay raises were not fair at this time. It is so typical that a diversion has appeared: “the rich don’t pay their share”. It’s mere weeks until the raises are due to go into effect. Would anyone be willing to do a counter publicity campaign? My fear is that the legislature will be called back for “police reform” and mail-in voting (another travesty) while the Capitol remains closed. The public will again be shut out of the process, unable to protest in person, especially if the legislators are voting remotely. The taxpayers should know who stands for/ against freezing wages. Federal wage freezes years ago were made up subsequently, so no actual savings happened. I foresee something absurd like that happening in CT if the unions even budge a little; they’ll get it all one way or another. And the rest of CT be damned. It’s just not fair.

    • Rob Kroe

      June 12, 2020 5:17 pm

      So it means nothing that the unions gave back countless millions upon millions, and accepted no raises more years than we got them. And what about the tax revenue we pay. These comments show the ignorance of people who are either wealthy or not smart enough to be in a union.

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