There is going to be blood on the floors, walls and even the ornate ceilings of the state capitol in Hartford this week as Gov. Dannel Malloy moves to lay off thousands of state employees and possibly cut aid to cities and towns—a one-two punch to the gut of the state economy.
State employee labor unions’ rank and file failed to ratify a “concessions” deal between its leadership and the Malloy administration leading the governor back to his dreaded “Plan B.” It’s hard to know where to start to address this complicated issue; some aspects are ironic, some long coming and some just plain stupid.
• The state employee labor unions rejected a “concessions” deal that gave them a no-layoff guarantee; a 9-percent pay increase over three years after a two-year, wage freeze; and a pillow. In return, labor members would have to switch from Crest Pro Health Whitener-Plus tooth paste to a lesser brand and stop using local emergency rooms like they were their own private medicine cabinets.
• The governor is more than just a little ticked off after going to the mat for labor and handing them a sweet deal only to have it stuffed back in his face. With the rejection of the deal, the unions didn’t rain on Malloy’s inaugural session, victory parade; they led it off track, down an alley and then burned all the floats. If something doesn’t happen between now and the special session Thursday, Malloy may hit labor with God’s own fury. He’s already said at least 7,000 state employees will be laid off and even worse, state aid to cities and towns is in jeopardy which means your property taxes would go up (more on that later).
• The rejected deal didn’t add up anyway (this would be in the “ironic” category). Administration folks kept telling anyone who would listen that the proposed deal would add up to $1.6 billion in savings to the state over two years. The fact that the legislature’s nonpartisan budget office couldn’t verify even half of that from the information it was given created an accusation of “Malloy Math!” So even with fudged numbers in its favor, labor rejected the deal.
• Union backers (the few that are left) have the gall to say legislative leaders are overacting to the rejection of the deal when they say labor hurt itself with the vote. The state Senate and House are in a bind now, for sure. However, it’s their own fault. Senate President Don Williams, a consistent supporter of labor, started packing his staff in recent years with union flunkies and may as well have given labor an office in the caucus suite. Speaker of House Chris Donovan is so deep in labor’s pocket, he could be “Inspector # 13.”
• The Hartford Courant’s Colin McEnroe called the union members who voted against the deal, “a bunch of babies.” As usual, he’s right. Now Williams and Donovan have to deal with the infants they’ve been allowing to grab candy from the store shelves for years.
All of this comes in an atmosphere of anti-labor fervor with efforts in some states to do away with collective bargaining altogether. Connecticut state employee labor unions seem determined to encourage that sentiment here.