Dear SEBAC, Don’t Come Crying When the Layoffs Hit

We’ve seen this movie before. State government gets itself all sorts of screwed up fiscally. It turns to its employees to ease the cost of their Cadillac health insurance and other benefits. Union leaders say, “Go pound sand” (or something less family-friendly) to the governor. Governor sets layoffs in motion. Rank and file union members freak. Labor leaders are forced to the bargaining table. Why don’t we just skip the whole nonsense in the middle and get to the negotiating.

Democrats in the legislature are loathe to ask for union concessions. After all, labor is the mother’s milk of reelections. Republicans are less so. Yet these new Republican leaders are a lot smarter about it than GOP chiefs in the past. Where state Sen. Lou DeLuca and Rep. Bob Ward basically just said, “Too damn bad” to state employees, Sen. Len Fasano and Rep. Themis Klarides float ideas like furloughs to avoid layoffs.

One thing is for sure: we don’t need a Quinnipiac poll to know state labor unions do not have the sympathy of the public. Where the regular workforce is constantly at the mercy of its employers, public employees enjoy both Washington’s and Lincoln’s birthdays off. (I should know. I was one of those enjoying the perks for some five-plus years as a senior staff member of the Senate Democrats.)

To be fair, it’s not the state employees who got the state into the seemingly endless cycle of budget deficits. They weren’t the ones passing budgets that were systemically destined for disaster. But even labor’s Democratic defenders will turn to union members for givebacks rather than gut the state’s safety net, a process already underway. State employees aren’t the problem but they will be part of the solution.

If we could just dispense with all the ridiculous posturing on both the Malloy administration and the State Employee Bargaining Agent Coalition (SEBAC), we could get to a solution much quicker. The quicker the solution, the lesser the impact on real people.

Labor’s first response to the administration’s request to discuss givebacks was met with a laughable response from SEBAC. “We don’t have the authority to open contracts.” It was exceeded in its absurdity only by the administration’s comeback.

“We’re more alarmed, if not completely stunned, at the ludicrous rationale given as to why long-term benefits cannot or should not be part of the discussion,” Malloy spokesman Devon Puglia said. Really? You’re “alarmed” and “stunned?” Please. The only thing alarming or stunning is that the two sides are engaging with this stupid charade. SEBAC should counter with its “outrage” or “indignation” and be done with it.

The state’s finances are a mess and the people the least able to bear the brunt of cuts are suffering. Hospitals, community health centers, social services and the like shouldn’t suffer while the Malloy administration and SEBAC do their ridiculous dance.