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Big Labor’s Desperation: Pressuring Gov. Lamont Over Sham Bill for Striking Workers

Big Labor is ramping up pressure on Gov. Ned Lamont to greenlight a bill — one he has hinted vetoing — that would financially support individuals choosing to strike. 

On May 10, two days after the bill’s passage, Brian Anderson — a Legislative & Political Associate Director of AFSCME Council 4 — posted a take action link on Facebook, urging support for the legislation. The campaign, led by the Connecticut AFL-CIO, one of the state’s largest unions and affiliated with AFSCME, aims to mobilize individuals to send a form letter to Governor Lamont, urging him to sign the bill into law. 

Unsurprisingly, union leaders are calling for Gov. Lamont’s approval; but what raises questions is the quick mobilization of the entire campaign.  

Initially, a taxpayer-funded initiative known as the “Connecticut families and workers account,” managed by the State Comptroller, was proposed to aid low-income workers. However, the bill underwent significant changes when the House introduced it on May 3. Lawmakers pulled a bait-and-switch maneuver, removing all content from a bill titled “An Act Concerning Expenditures of the General Fund,” stripping away its original language and receiving a new title. 

Curiously, the revised bill lacks any reference to striking workers, and there’s a conspicuous absence of details regarding eligibility criteria for families or workers, as well as the allocation process for the fund. Furthermore, the Labor and Public Employees Committee had already greenlit a bill that specifically provided unemployment benefits to striking workers — which went through the regular legislative process with public hearing, as well as votes (90-59 in the House; 23-12 in the Senate). 

Yet, mere moments after the bill’s approval in the House — and nearly 20 hours before CT Mirror’s article disclosed its true intention — union leaders seemed to have a foreknowledge that the public and lawmakers were not privy to.  

Taylor Biniarz, identified on LinkedIn as the Middletown Democrats Mayoral Campaign Field Director and Volunteer Coordinator, took to Facebook revealing the bill’s genuine purpose. Biniarz stated that the fund is actually intended to compensate striking workers, posting a picture saying, “The board for the vote on the Unemployment Insurance bill for Striking Workers after a period of time, the same as if you lose your job.”

This disclosure raises significant concerns about what transpired behind closed doors, including who was involved in misleading the public and what promises or deals facilitated the bill’s passage. 

It appears that big labor may have played a role in the deception surrounding the bill.  

Did the CT Mirror article tip off the AFL-CIO or were they involved in backdoor discussions with lawmakers — conveniently just a few months before their elections — enabling them to have their take action campaign ready to go? 

The petition circulating from Anderson and other unions, such as the Connecticut American Federation of Teachers (AFT), SEIU 1199NE and the State Employee Bargaining Agent Coalition (SEBAC), asserts that “there is absolutely no evidence that this bill incentivizes or prolongs strikes,” though it does not provide a source for this claim. 

This contrasts with testimony from Mary Jane Massimino, a Stop & Shop union steward, who said in 2022, “Had we had unemployment benefits to rely on during the 2019 strike, we might’ve been able to stay out longer.”  

Massimino also acknowledged that the bill would have put the government’s finger on the scale in favor of her union stating, “If we had unemployment benefits to back us up that would’ve given us a little bit more leverage to fight the large multinational corporation that employs us.” 

Notably, SEBAC’s support is curious since Connecticut state employees are not allowed to strike, meaning their members would not benefit from the bill. 

Further intensifying the debate, Leslie Blatteau, President of the New Haven Federation of Teachers and a New Haven Public School teacher, called Gov. Lamont “a dangerous leader” on social media. She accused Lamont of siding with employers and attempting to curtail union power, concluding her comment with hashtags #TrueColors and #BirdsOfAFeather. 

The plot thickens with the involvement of Sen. Julie Kushner (D-Danbury) — the bill’s lead proponent — whose daughter, Raychel Kushner Hermanson, works for SEIU, a union that could directly benefit if the bill is signed into law. Adding to the controversy, Hermanson also promoted the petition on Facebook. This connection suggests a potential conflict of interest, casting doubt on the bill’s motivations and the integrity of its proponents. 

With numerous unanswered questions surrounding the bill’s origins, Gov. Lamont faces a tough decision. Approving the bill could be seen as bowing to special interests, while vetoing it might draw backlash from big labor. However, this issue extends beyond just a single piece of legislation, highlighting the need for reform to ensure that all legislative actions are conducted with utmost integrity and transparency. 

This scenario underscores the urgent need for transparency and accountability in our legislative process. When unions, legislators, and other stakeholders negotiate behind closed doors, it undermines public trust and raises serious questions about whose interests are actually being served. 

The bill, now designated as Public Act 24-131, was assigned its number on May 22 and is set to be transmitted to the Secretary of the State’s (SOTS) office. As of Thursday (May 23), a SOTS official stated that “the bill has not yet been transferred to our office. We expect we’ll transmit it to the Governor’s office at some point next week. The last day for all bill transmittals is May 31.” 

You still have time to tell Gov. Lamont to veto the bill. To do so, visit Yankee Institute’s ‘Take Action’ page here. 

This Week on Yankee’s Podcast Y CT Matters

So what happened in the 2024 Legislative Session? Andy Markowski — Yankee Institute’s advisor on government affairs and principal of Statehouse Partners — breaks down the good, the bad and the ugly bills that passed or failed.

Click here to listen.

Meghan Portfolio

Meghan worked in the private sector for two decades in various roles in management, sales, and project management. She was an intern on a presidential campaign and field organizer in a governor’s race. Meghan, a Connecticut native, joined Yankee Institute in 2019 as the Development Manager. After two years with Yankee, she has moved into the policy space as Yankee’s Manager of Research and Analysis. When she isn’t keeping up with local and current news, she enjoys running–having completed seven marathons–and reading her way through Modern Library’s 100 Best Novels.

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