State of the Union May/June 2011
State employee unions face uncertain future as layoff notices are issued
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Gov. Malloy say s layoffs of more than 7,50 0 workers to begin immedia tely G o v. D
a n n e l P. M a ll o y v o w e d F ri w it h la yo ff s o d a y to m o v e f st at e w ork er a he ad s a n d sa id nu l i k e l y re a c h m b er s w ou ld m o re t h a n t h e p re v io u s l y s e t 7, 5 0 0 .
Senate filibuster kills Family Medical Leave for Paraprofessionals.
UConn Health Center Expands
$900 million expansion will create new jobs, solidify health center as flagship for state.
Keeping Gen Y
New report examines how we can keep our newest teachers in the profession.
Backus nurses vote union yes
he nurses at William H. Backus Hospital in Norwich voted overwhelmingly in support of a union. The election was administered by the National Labor Relations Board in an election held today, May 11. “We are very happy with the results of today’s election,” said John Brady, an RN in the Emergency Department. “We will be speaking with every nurse as we begin contract negotiations with the hospital.” “Having a contract will give us a voice in the hospital so that we can be stronger advocates for our patients,” said Lisa Currier, and RN in the OR. “That’s why I voted in favor of a union.” “We are ready to begin working with management to turn Backus Hospital back into a community hospital that focuses on patients first,” said Dee Arndt an RN in Labor an Delivery. The nurses join with nine other nursing locals represented by AFT Connecticut, the state’s largest representative of acute care hospital workers, and with the unions 28,000 members. “We welcome the nurses from Backus and know that they will lend their voices to strengthening patient care at their hospital and at the state capitol,” said Sharon Palmer, president of AFT Connecticut.
The nurses will begin the process of electing local leaders and negotiating a contract immediately.
UConn Health Center expansion in the works
he legislature Senate Bill 1152 which will expand the University of Connecticut Health Center in Farmington. The planned expansion will result in
thousands of new union jobs in bioscience, medical and construction. Governor Dannel Malloy proposed the $900 million expansion, which will be funded from public and private sources. The expansion will emphasize on bioscience research, expansion of outpatient care at the hospital, and new laboratory space, which will attract federal dollars and private industry. Expansion of UConn’s medical and dental schools are also a part of the plan. “We’re encouraged by the Governor’s support for the health center,” said Jean Morningstar, president of University Health Professionals, Local 3837, the largest union in the UConn Health Center. “We look forward to working with Gov. Malloy, the legislature and our members as we move forward with the expansion.”
Sharon Palmer President STATE OF THE UNION is published on an irregular basis up to six times a year by AFT Connecticut, 35 Marshall Road, Rocky Hill, CT 06067. Phone: 860/257-9782 www.aftct.org Third class postage paid at Hartford, CT
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Melodie Peters First Vice President Leo Canty Second Vice President Thomas Bruenn Secretary/Treasurer Eric Bailey Communications Director
Officers re-elected at annual business convention
embers re-elected the officers of AFT Connecticut at the 64th annual business convention on May 14. Re-elected were Sharon Palmer, President, Melodie Peters, Vice President and Leo Canty, Second Vice President. “We have accomplished much this past year,” said Sharon Palmer. “From making the difference in last year’s elections to the recent win for Backus Hospital nurses to an agreement between Gov. Malloy and the state employee unions, our union is making its voice heard.” Chuck Morrell was elected treasurer after Tom Bruenn, AFT Connecticut’s Treasurer for 46 years, retired. Members passed a resolution calling for workplace violence prevention in healthcare settings. Leg-
islation on this matter is currently making its way through the state legislature. CT AFL-CIO President John Olson spoke about how labor unions are standing up to attacks on the middle class. “From California to Wisconsin to Massachusetts unions are fighting for middle class families,” said Olson. Stephanie Bloomingdale, Secretary-Treasurer of the Wisconsin AFLCIO, was the guest speaker. “I want to thank AFT Connecticut and your members for all the support you have shown the workers of Wisconsin.” Also elected at the convention were jurisdictional vice presidents: John Altieri TNA Joanne Chapin NLRB Thomas Culley SEBAC Betty Gadson MERA
Retring Treasurer Tom Bruenn is recognized for his many years of service.
Danbury Nurses Unit 47 is recognized for 30 years as an AFT local. Mary Consoli, Pres. Unit 47, Melodie Peters, 1st VP AFTCT
The new vice presidents for AFT Connecticut are: Erin Benham, Dennis Bogusky, Ron Chinvinski, David Cicarella, Patricia Fusco, David Hayes, Jan Hochadel, Andrea Johnson, Patricia Keavney, Phyllis Kornfeld, Laila Mandour, Stephen McKeever, Patricia Mitchell, Jean Morningstar, Harry Rodriguez, Kathleen Sanner, Andrea Slusarz and Susan Truglio Bill Skoog, former president of Windham Federation of Teachers, Local 1577, received the President’s Award. Aubrey Moore, daughter of a New Haven Federation of Teachers, Local 933, member received the AFT Connecticut Scholarship.
Aubrey Moore receives the AFT Connecticut Scholarship.
Stephanie Bloomingdale, Secretary-Treasurer of the Wisconsin AFL-CIO, speaks about the support our members gave workers in Wisconsin. STATE OF THE UNION
SEBAC seeking a path to saving jobs and protecting public services
eaders of the unions in the State Employees Bargaining Agent Coalition (SEBAC) asked Governor Dannel P. Malloy to reconvene discussions on how to protect the public services provided by the 45,000 members they represent. The tentative agreement that had been reached between SEBAC leaders and the Malloy Administration was supported by 57% of union members and 11 of 15 unions in the coalition. Under SEBAC’s by-laws, passage of the tentative agreement would require support from 80% of the union members and 14 of 15 unions in the coalition. Under the SEBAC by-laws, a vote to ratify that agreement failed July 5. Despite the fact that it did not pass, coalition leaders remain both hopeful and confident we can finalize and implement an agreement that helps move our members and the public they serve into a better and more stable future. On June 27, SEBAC leadership unanimously adopted a resolution in order to: 1. Continue working to protect the legitimate interests of all of Connecticut’s working and middle class families, including its public employees; 2. Consider whether the current SEBAC By-Laws remain the best vehicle for balancing the democratic interests of the majority with the need to protect the stability and viability of healthcare and pension benefits; 3. Explore and remedy the misinformation provided to many members about the TA, and about the consequences of accepting and or rejecting it; & 4. Protect our members and the broad public they serve from those who seek to use the fiscal crisis as an excuse to weaken the voice of working families, public and private. As discussions move forward, we will be guided by the same key principles that brought them further than many expected back in February when the governor called for concessions in his budget address: QQ Commitment to an agreement that protects vital public services and the working families who are dedicated to providing those services; QQ Commitment to an agreement that is fair for the members of all of the coalition’s unions; QQ Commitment to a mutual solution that respects the collective bargaining process; & QQ Commitment never to waiver from the belief that all public service workers — like all working families — deserve decent and stable wages and benefits, as well as respect on the job. Go to our website www.aftct.org for the latest updates on the SEBAC negotiations and agreement.
4 STATE OF THE UNION
Breaking down the SEBAC vote SEBAC consists of 15 unions comprised of 34 bargaining units.
Under current SEBAC by-laws, passage of the tentative agreement requires 80% support from members voting AND 14 of 15 unions voting yes.
SEBAC is considering a variety of ways to reach an agreement with the state, including amending the by-laws to allow passage of a new agreement by a simple majority.
Closing the $1.6 billion budget gap The SEBAC 2011 Tentative Agreement would have closed the $1.6 billion budget gap over the next two years. In order to close that gap, Governor Malloy and the state legislature has proposed laying off 6,500 state employees. The state senate also passed legislation that would eliminate longevity payments for state employees not yet eligible for them and freezing longevity payments for those already receiving them. The bill also would have changed the definition of “salary” for pension calculations in order to exclude overtime, longevity, fees or any other payment in the calculation. The state house of representatives chose to hold off on the bill until after all options at passing the tentative agreement are exhausted.
Teacher evaluation legislation goes nowhere
ationwide state legislatures have been looking at changing t he way teachers a re evaluated and, if necessary, dismissed. Here in Connecticut, AFT Connecticut worked closely with legislators on legislation that would have redesigned teacher evaluation systems and aligned them to due process for tenured teachers. Unfortunately, this important legislation appears to be dead for this year. "T his leg islat ion was based partly on a collaborative process similar to the groundbreaking model developed by the New Haven teachers and their administration,” said Sharon Palmer, president of AFT Connecticut. “If Alex Johnston believes that what’s good for education in New Haven isn’t good enough for the rest of the state then it’s time for him to resign from the New Haven Board of Education,” said Palmer. ConnCAN changed their position about SB 1160 late in the session and opposed a collaborative committee of teachers and administrators. Proposals in many other states have focused solely on testscores and have failed to produce a comprehensive, fair, and expedient process that will identify, improve, and—if necessary—remove ineffective teachers. “AFT Connecticut sought a fair process that engaged teachers in evaluation reforms and provided constructive feedback about their performance so that teachers can ensure students are receiving the best education possible,” said Palmer. “Actions speak louder than words, and ConnCAN has demonstrated they have no interest in engaging teachers in the evaluation process to improve student learning.” The evaluation system would have provided a process to ensure that teachers are being assessed fairly. Any teacher found to be in need of improvement would have participated in a remediation plan of professional development, mentor-
ing and other supports. If they had not made sufficient improvement, they could be dismissed. AFT Connecticut advocated that the remediation plan take no longer than one school year before dismissal. “Alex Johnston and ConnCAN clearly aren’t interested in working collaboratively with teachers to improve education. They’re only interested in blaming teachers,”
said Palmer. “We’re working towards proven solutions: providing adequate funding for education and establishing fair and collaboratively developed evaluation systems that give educators meaningful feedback to enhance their professional practice. Only then will all students, no matter their zip codes, have access to the quality education they deserve.”
Legislative Victories Healthcare HB 5048 will require hospitals to obtain a Certificate of Need in order to terminate patient services. Last year, Rockville Hospital closed the Birthplace which impacted members of the nursing local there. Teachers/PSRP HB 6308 will help municipalities and non-profit organizations reduce healthcare costs by allowing them to join the state employee health pool. HB 6599 prohibits discrimination based on gender identity.
Public Employees HB 6651 restructures the process for investigating whistleblower complaints, expands current protections for whistleblowers, and establishes new protections. HB 6318 indemnifies individuals and corporations who donate equipment for instructional purposes to vocation-technical high schools. General Public SB 91 provides paid sick days for services workers.
STATE OF THE UNION
Hospital workplace violence bill passes senate
ne of AFT Connecticut’s priority pieces of legsialtion passed this year, Senate Bill 970 An Act Concerning Workplace Violence Prevention and Response in Health Care Settings. This bill will: (1) Require health care employers to develop and implement plans and training programs related to workplace violence prevention and response, (2) require health care employers to report on incidents of workplace violence to the local law enforcement agencies and the Department of Public Health,
(3) establish criminal penalties for assault of a health care employee, and (4) require the Department of Public Health to report to the General Assembly and the public at large on incidents of workplace violence. “We worked very hard to push this legislation through this year,” said Mary Consoli, president of Danbury Nurses Unit 47, Local 5047. “We have seen nurses injured numerous times as a result of violent patients in the hospital. Now we have a law to help protect nurses and other healthcare workers.”
Filibuster ends hope of FMLA for paraprofessionals
n the final night of the 2011 legislative session, House Bill 5465, a bill that would have made it easier for paraprofessionals to qualify for the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) benefits, ended without a vote. The bill had far reaching bi-partisan support. It passed the House of Representatives with a vote of 126-19. Senate Republican leadership supported the bill. Senator Rob Ka ne (R-Watertown), despite pleas from his Republican colleagues in the House and Senate, filibustered the bill for more than two hours. On the final night of the session, time is a precious commodity and the Majority leadership was forced to pull the bill so that others could receive final action. "We are extremely disappointed that Senator Kane would block this important legislation," said Sharon Palmer, president of AFT Connecticut. "This was unconscionable." The Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) allows workers time off to care for themselves or family members when they are ill. Unfortunately, paraprofessionals do not currently qualify for FMLA because they are 10-month, hourly employees. When a paraprofessional has been stricken with a serious illnesses, or has a family member who is ill or children that they must take care of, FMLA pro-
6 STATE OF THE UNION
State Senate pulls plug on captive audience bill
A Sen. Robert Kane vides them no opportunity to take time off from work without the risk of losing their job. House Bill 5465 would have corrected this injustice and let paraprofessionals receive the same FMLA benefits that other workers receive. "This isn't the end," said Palmer. "We will continue our efforts to ensure that paraprofessionals are granted the same rights as everyone else. It's unfortunate that they will have to wait another year for that to happen." Members of the Watertown Paraprofessionals Local 3960 contacted Sen. Kane after the session ended to express their disappointment with his actions.
t tor ne y G ener a l G e or ge Jepsen adv ised t he State Senate that federal labor law appears to pre-empt the state from passing a "captive audience" bill. Sen. Edith G. Prague, co-chair of the Labor and Public Employees Committee, said the Senate would not take up the bill in light of Jepsen's advice. The House of Representatives passed the bill two weeks ago, 78 to 65, after an 11-hour debate. John Olsen, president of t he Connecticut AFL-CIO, said labor would continue to press for passage of the bill, saying "a legal opinion is statement of what might happen in the fact of a court challenge, not a certainty." "We believe the bill, from all kinds of standpoints, is defensible," Olsen said. AFL-CIO unions will be re-examining Attorney General Jepsen’s legal concerns and make a decision about whether to re-introduce the bill next session.
New report shows need for focus on retirement security
new report on state pensions from the Pew Center on the States offers some lessons for dealing with the aftermath of the financial collapse. The report, “The Widening Gap: The Great Recession’s Impact on State Pension and Retiree Health Care Costs,” found that in all, state pension system in 2009 were slightly less than 78 percent funded— declining six percentage points from the 2008 level of 84 percent. “The good news in the Pew report is that even at the lowest depths of the recession, although the funding status of public pension plans worsened, the plans showed resilience and an ability to weather the massive financial downturn,” AFT president Randi Weingarten says. “We should learn from the states that handled the financial collapse well and apply those lessons to others that did poorly. “Retirement security is a shared responsibility for employers, workers and our country. Workers, after careers of hard work and service, should be able to live independent, dignified
lives. Before the recession, few employers were providing livable retirement security for workers. Moreover, since the recession, more Americans are unemployed or underemployed, which makes their retirement security even more tenuous. We need to create a new national compact to put pensions on a strong and secure path for all Americans. “The AFT is committed to being an active partner in addressing issues related to public pensions and the looming retirement crisis. An AFT Ad Hoc Committee on Revenues and Retirement Security, composed of 20 elected AFT leaders, staff and teacher pension trustees from around the country, concluded that the debate needs to move past short-term fixes and focus on long-term solutions based on reality, not on misconceptions about workers’ pensions. Public pension reforms should amend, not end, defined-benefit plans.” The committee’s report, to be reviewed at the May AFT executive council meeting, makes a number of
recommendations to build a foundation for retirement security for all workers. Those recommendations include: • Every worker should be covered by retirement plans that provide enough consistent income to secure a reasonable standard of living. • Retirement security should be the shared responsibility of employers, employees and the government. • Earned pension benefits should be retained for retirement, and accruals should be portable. • States and other employers should pay their annual required contributions every year. • Pension plans should establish a reserve fund to offset market volatility. • Pension reforms should include elimination of spiking at the end of a career, elimination of doubledipping, and establishment of a benefit ceiling to guard against excessively high pension benefits.
Report looks at keeping Gen Y teachers in the profession
eneration Y teachers—those in their mid-30s or younger—say that to keep them in teaching, schools should be transformed into workplaces that support high-quality teaching and learning, so eager but nearly overwhelmed novices will stay in the profession and can become highly effective, according to a new report by the AFT and the American Institutes for Research. The AFT and AIR spoke with Generation Y teachers about what can be done to stem the tide of young teachers leaving the profession. The report is based on 11 nationally representative teacher surveys, seven focus groups with Gen Y teachers, and three case studies (in St. Francis, Minn.; Austin, Texas; and Philadelphia). Young teachers say they want feedback on their performance and to be evaluated in a fair way; they need time to collaborate with their colleagues; they support differentiated pay for high performance; and they want to use technology to provide engaging and effective lessons, as well as to support collaboration with other teachers through, for instance, videos and conferencing technology.
“We asked our new teachers what they need to help grow the next generation of teachers. They told us loudly and clearly that they need the tools, resources and working conditions to make teaching a lifelong career,” says AFT president Randi Weingarten. “High-quality education simply cannot be sustained with the high teacherturnover rate we’re seeing today.” According to “Workplaces That Support High-Performing Teaching and Learning: Insights from Generation Y Teachers,” Gen Y teachers account for at least one in five teachers in U.S. classrooms today. They start out intending to make teaching a lifelong profession. However, according to the report, teachers under 30 leave teaching at a rate 51 percent higher than older teachers and transfer to a different school at a rate 91 percent higher than their older colleagues. Studies also show that the national teacher-turnover rate costs school districts approximately $7 billion annually. Read more about t he repor t on ou r website: www.aftct.org STATE OF THE UNION
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Changing attitudes Sharon Palmer, AFT Connecticut President
ationwide public employees are under attack. the course of the SEBAC negotiations we have received From California to Connecticut governors and emails from many members asking what we are doing legislatures are seeking to roll back many of the to change public opinion towards public employees. gains labor unions have made in building America’s The fact of the matter is that right-wing think tanks middle class. have been crafting messages for more than 50 years. When Wisconsin’s governor fired the first salvo, Messages that portray public employees as overpaid stripping workers of their collective bargaining rights, and underworked. working people stood up across the country to fight That messaging has ingrained itself into the pubback. Many within the labor movement thought that lic’s perception and many of them have bought into these attacks on workers rights would be constrained the idea of us versus them. Labor unions have a strong to states whose elected leaders were primarily repubhistory of fighting for the rights of all workers, not just lican. They were wrong. our members. Here i n t he If we a re to nor t hea st, demo- ”We must recognize that the fight doesn’t change the way the crat ic led leg isla- end when the contracts are signed.” public perceives us tures in Massachuthen we must change setts, Rhode Island and New Jersey have taken steps to the way we talk about ourselves. strip healthcare from collective bargaining and other We must speak with our friends, family and measures. neighbors who do not have union representation and All while other states were taking these steps, the convince them that they deserve quality affordable State Employee Bargaining Agent Coalition was nehealthcare, a pension they can retire on and a decent gotiating with Governor Malloy’s administration on paycheck for their work. a tentative agreement that would result in a savings of If you have ever participated in contract negotia$1.6 billion over the next two years, while preserving tions for your local, you know that sometimes tough public services for our state (see SEBAC on page 4). choice have to be made. We can’t always get what we When that agreement was voted down, Gov. Malloy want but we can fight for what is right. I believe the and the state legislature had to decide how to close the SEBAC unions did just that. budget gap. Gov. Malloy proposed a combination of We must recognize that the fight doesn’t end when layoffs and municipal funding cuts, but the legislature the contracts are signed. Our opponents will continue chose to preserve municipal funding, and instead, to call us lazy and overpaid, so we cannot sit idly by layoff one thousand more state employees. and assume the public will take our side. We have to Both options are detrimental to our members, speak out and change the public’s attitude. their families and the public they serve. Throughout
8 STATE OF THE UNION
Published on Aug 26, 2011