LABOR HOT OVER MALLOY PROPOSAL TO REQUIRE LEGISLATIVE VOTES ON AGREEMENTS/AWARDS

Gov. Dannel Malloy wants to require that the legislature vote on any collective bargaining agreement or binding arbitration award with unions and labor leaders are not happy about it. The issue comes up as the Malloy administration is starting negotiations to try to secure $2 billion in concessions over two years from the state employee unions to balance the state budget. And to make things even more complicated, a state senator known as a major supporter of labor supports the governor on the “required vote” proposal.

Tucked into a bill that would implement the governor’s budget is a provision requiring the legislature to act on the agreements and awards. Currently, either the state senate or house can vote on them if they so choose but they very rarely, if ever, do. Rather, the agreements and awards are routinely allowed to simply sit on the chambers’ calendars for 30 days after which they become law.

AFL-CIO President John Olsen tells The Hanging Shad he doesn’t like the governor’s proposal and likes the timing of it even less. “It has nothing to do with the budget. Where does this come from? Also, this is not the message you want to be sending [while negotiating concessions],” he said. Olsen noted that the legislature already has the right to vote on such issues. He adds that he opposes any proposal that would weaken the binding arbitration process.

American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Council 4 spokesman Larry Dorman also questioned the usefulness of the proposal. “As far as it being a distraction [to the negotiations], it’s problematic. It’s also unnecessary and could lead to delays and a slowdown of the process of getting those agreements in place.” Other insiders fear that if the house and senate were required to vote on the deals, it could lead to grandstanding by those who oppose them.

Meanwhile, state Sen. Edith Prague (D-Columbia), the co-chair of the labor and public employees committee and a champion of organized labor, like the governor’s idea. “If we vote on the packages it would be more transparent. It would not appear like there’s anything sneaky going on or being done behind closed doors. We should not, however, have the right to dissect or change anything in the agreements. An up or down vote would be good,” she said.