Thirteen unit directors at the Connecticut Department of Labor were granted permission by the state Board of Labor Relations to join the Administrative & Residual Union 4200 AFT in a decision handed down in March.
The directors, whose salaries range from $95,000 per year to more than $126,000, include directors of five American Job Centers and directors of the Workplace Innovation and Opportunity Act Administration unit, Employment Services, the Office of Work Force Competitiveness and the Unemployment Benefit Payment Control unit, among others.
The state argued that the directors were, in effect, managers who are restricted from unionizing.
The board, however, disagreed, noting the unit directors did not meet the state’s definition of “management” because they didn’t have the ability to fire personnel or take a major role in administering collective bargaining agreements.
This is not the first time that employees in supervisory or director roles have been allowed to unionize in Connecticut.
Connecticut’s state workforce is overwhelmingly unionized but labor has been picking up more employees piecemeal. Many of those newly unionized employees are in positions paying over six-figures.
Earlier this year, 100 supervisors in the Department of Children and Families unionized after the state changed their classification from manager to supervisors. The agreement cost $1.2 million in wage and benefit increases and was approved by the legislature.
During the 2019 legislative session, an additional 608 employees either formed new collective bargaining units or were merged with existing units in arbitrated agreements approved by the General Assembly.
The new bargaining units included assistant attorneys general, tax attorneys, law clerks and counsels, various managers and engineers in different agencies and Judicial Branch counsel and legal services employees, all of whom joined as affiliates of the American Federation of Teachers.
In total, the addition of those 608 employees to union rolls cost an estimated $13.6 million in wage and benefit increases that are tied to the 2017 SEBAC agreement.
The 2017 SEBAC Agreement negotiated between Gov. Dannel Malloy and the State Employee Bargaining Agent Coalition awarded a $2,000 lump sum bonus, two 3.5 percent general wage increases, step increases and layoff protection until July of 2021 for Connecticut’s unionized state workforce.
The total cost of those raises was estimated at $353 million and the second general wage increase took effect on July 1, 2020.
In exchange, employees saw increased payments for medical and retirement benefits and the state created a new, less generous retirement tier for employees hired after 2017.
The decision to allow DOL directors to unionize was made in March before the pandemic shut down much of Connecticut’s government.
The union and the state will have to negotiate a contract that will then have to be approved by the legislature.