I have avoided any blogging since the SEBAC 2011 agreement firmed up. I certainly didn’t want to be in the group that was stirring shit up before the vote. In what some are calling a “shocking” turn of events, the tentative agreement (TA), also known as a concessions package, was rejected under the bylaws of SEBAC. The reason it was rejected is complicated because the media reporting is consistent in erroneously describing the voting process and requirements. Simply: Each Union is comprised of Bargaining Units, Each Bargaining Unit represents a separate contract, and is comprised of Chapters. Each chapter votes on the agreement, and the aggregate votes of the chapter determine how the Bargaining Unit votes. All the votes from all Bargaining Units determine how that particular Union votes. Each Union represents a portion of the employees within SEBAC. For this vote there are two simultaneous standards: 14 of the 15 SEBAC Unions have to vote for it, and those unions have to represent 80% of the SEBAC mambership. AFSCME represents over 30% of SEBAC, so if they vote “no”, the deal fails. They did, and it did… but three smaller unions also voted “no”.
We know a few things now that we suspected:
- There were a lot of reasons to vote “no” if you were intent on voting “no”, ranging from immediate pocketbook issues to political gamesmanship
- We had a lot of people running scare tactic games to swing that “no” vote, mostly political gamesmanship arguments
- The unions who have always played their own game did it again… they are “special”, they believe they are above layoffs. Time will tell if they are right.
We also had a few surprises, mainly CEUI voting “no”, and how close some of the bargaining-unit “yes” votes were.
I’ll come right out with what I think made this deal so hard for many to swallow: Most CT state employees were working under a concession package from 2009, and that had two years of furlough days, two years of zero-increases, and a 2.5% pay increase in year 3, starting July 1, 2011. The 2011 SEBAC deal took that 2.5% increase back (yoink!), set up another “charlie brown” 3% raise in 2015, and on top of the “concession of a concession” there were long term pension and health restructuring terms. I think the weight of the cumulative “ask” was higher than SEBAC and OLR calculated, against the 4-year job protection “give”. Also, despite the weird calculus of the hard-right, state employees are also paying the tax increases passed by the legislature, so some felt doubly dipped-upon.
Even with that analysis, I think the stability outweighed the drawbacks and voted “yes”. I see not only my own tenure with the State as a public investment, but also that of my coworkers. As a taxpayer and a state employee I know that the payroll savings are often/always offset by the cost of retraining/rebooting a program. In some cases the “brain drain” is fatal. Unfortunately, many people, both within and without state service, don’t see these programs as an investment. That is a major failing of organized labor, and State government in general.
The idea that the modifications to the 1997 SEBAC collective bargaining health and pension package needed to be addressed now, and were so very urgent and essential to this concession package, is baffling. SEBAC really fucked this up, along with the helpful folks at OLR. Filling a 2-year budget gap, with a $1-billion per year price on the head of state employees, was how this stampede got started. Putting long-term concessions into the deal in exchange for a slightly smaller than $1-billion per year ask by the Governor, was the grease on the rails. The deal might have passed if it had been just a hard to swallow 5-year wage concession package. But this lash-up of arrogance and optimism was doomed. Reworking the SEBAC 1997 agreement (master agreement) would have been a cracking idea for a Malloy second term. But we are seeing that Malloy doesn’t have that kind of vision. Everything now, everything his way, or else.
That said, I also consider this entire debacle a massive failure for the credentials and effectiveness of Governor Dannel Malloy. Yes, we have a budget deficit. Yes we have 9.1% unemployment. But balancing the budget doesn’t create jobs: job creation balances the budget. Dan is in serious danger of failing Econ 101 as his first major act as Governor. “See Me After Class” stickie, free of charge. But job creation is hard, and manipulating budget items is easier, so Dan took the easier route (not to mention one in line with the “powers” of the Governor’s office). What that means to me is that any economic turnaround will be coincidental with his budget balancing act, not a result of it.
But the SEBAC 2011 vote was not about the finer points of economic policy, a revote on the 2010 Governor’s race, ObamaScare, Sustinet boogeymen, or “sending a message”. It was a ratification vote on a concession package. I think that message got lost in the month between the announcement of the deal and the actual voting. Add in the week-long delay between early and late voting unions (AKA Operation ClusterFuck), and it was a perfect storm of “how to miss the forest for the trees”.
Now… I fully expect the “no” voters to get out there and storm the LOB with their ideas that are going to solve the mess they created… or, will they sit on their entitled asses and bitch? Wanna piece of that action?!?! It is looking like the “no” votes were made with no concept of an alternative, but a strong sense of “status quo” and a desire to keep it. Sure, some people felt that they were burdened more than others. But another thing lost in the discussion is that both the retirement age bump in 2022, and the health care revamp, came with options. Want to keep your current retirement age past 2022? Pay a max of 0.78% between now and your retirement. Want out of the health maintenance plan? Pay $100/month and one annual deductible. That health care deal is, FWIW, something that most of the private sector employees would jump through a burning wall to get.
[THIS JUST IN: SEBAC has tabled their vote to accept the results of the voting on the SEBAC 2011 tentative agreement. “After reporting on their union’s balloting, a motion was taken for coalition leaders to cast a final official vote to accept or reject the agreement. A second motion was then raised to table the vote for 30 days, which was passed by consent.” Sweet Christ On A Crutch… what next?]