After a week where SEBAC comes off looking even more rudderless, we are now starting to see voting schedules appear for the “Son of SEBAC 2011” Clarified Tentative Agreement. It looks like August 19th should be the wrap up date, but if a union really wants to drag their feet it could be longer. The delay in signing the clarified TA seems to have been that the job security language looks different when you have over 3,000 employees holding layoff notices. We are hoping that everyone acts like adults over at OPM, but people who’s layoff take effect before the (hopefully, for them) ratification of the clarified TA might be kinda up shit creek… I hope there is a process to recall even those notices and get them back on the job.
I think a few things need stating at this point:
Based on people I talk to at work, and comments I read on the InterWebs, I really do believe that many people don’t understand how their union works, how SEBAC works, or even how their contract works. The people who assume that SEBAC is some kind of puppetmaster clique are also shocked when SEBAC reports that unions, and bargaining units within those unions, are to decide how to vote on this new TA. What! SEBAC can’t force unions to do their bidding?
Just like the people who characterize union workers as unwashed pinko hippies singing the Internationale while masturbating to pictures of Chairman Obama can’t close the loop to explain how the NO voter contingent seems to be right wing libertarian free market types shitting their cage about ObamaScare… If you believe SEBAC calls all the shots, then why is the voting process such an uncoordinated freakin’ disaster?
Here’s why: Each of the 15 unions in SEBAC have a lot of autonomy. The bargaining unit(s) (representing a single contract) that make up a union has some autonomy but usually they work through an Executive Committee comprised of bargaining unit leaders within that union. As a result, the power in SEBAC really does flow “uphill”. Unions dictate to SEBAC, not the other way around. The ratification/voting bylaws changes that SEBAC passed only affect how the individual votes are processed by SEBAC, not how the individual bargaining units vote.
Next: the fact that there were over six weeks of negotiations that produced a concessions package, and that the unions were given time to go through the voting process, then regroup after a rejection, clarify terms, and organize a second round of voting, is evidence that a Governor was elected who was/is willing to work as a partner with the State workforce. Meanwhile, In Parallel Universe Connecticut, [cue spooky organ music] the following things happened since January 2011:
- The Parallel Governor issued 5,000 layoff notices in April, and told SEBAC: “We’ll see ya’ in a year, maybe.” With the majority of employees under contract through June 2012 the PG has no incentive to bargain. Why bargain with a captive audience under an existing contract? Plus, you can always stop answering the phone when the individual unions call looking to work out the next contract, and get a free wage freeze for FY2012 when SEBAC 2009 expires.
- PG Whatshisname has now cut spending deeply and will ride out the public outcry with the cheers of his supporters to block it out. He has time to look at the union contract chessboard and decide whether to stall and force a 0% year in FY2012, go to arbitration and look for a rollback in the -2% to -3% range (happened in multiple Northeast states already), or spend the next year building support in the LOB for the revocation of collective bargaining rights for pension and healthcare.
- He is also just starting a 4-year term so his long term plan will include political wedge play to soften up spots for like-minded challengers in contested races. He could have an anti-collective-bargaining coalition in office by his third year. By which time he may have balanced the budget and have tilted the table fully his way.
My! That dastardly Parallel Governor is a cold-hearted union buster! How do you feel about that “nasty” Dan Malloy now? After all of the rhetoric, and scare tactics, and people using this agreement as a referendum on everything from the 2010 Connecticut Governor’s race to fucking Obamacare, and right wing nutjobs like Johnny HotTub intentionally misreading every tealeaf to support their childish agenda of lies… uh… where was I?… oh! you have a sitting Governor working with the unions, through the established bargaining process, to save state employee jobs and preserve public services.
Remember: The concessions package process is not a fait accompli. Both sides have to want to work one out. Otherwise we have a situation like those poor bastards over in Parallel Connecticut. God have mercy on their souls!
Maybe this comes as a surprise, but I’m not a huge fan of the actual TA. I do, however, understand why it exists, how it came to exist, and that it is far and away preferable to the alternative. The TA itself, it has a lot to wrinkle one’s nose at, but almost every section has an “out”:
- Doubling the early retirement penalty, BUT, a way to preserve the current retirement age past 2022.
- Increasing healthcare costs to $100/mo plus a $350 annual deductible, BUT creating a program where you avoid those costs by engaging in active healthcare programs. Use more healthcare, and it’s free! Also, you would have a public riot worthy of the National Guard if that $100/350 plan was offered to the general public, so haters, stop bitching about getting the cheapest insurance deal in the State, with an option for it to stay essentially FREE. It makes you look stupid and petty when you complain about stuff like that.
- Pay 3% into a retiree healthcare fund for 10 years, BUT the system is funded on-time and you keep the current system in place through 2022. (There is a bit of bad math going around that this fee equates to a constant wage loss, because some people can’t tell a fixed cost from a salary increase… don’t be a dummy, figure it out)
- And, retirees COLA range is extended on the low end as well as the high end, where if you read the COLA language and look at the history you see that you are more likely to use the middle and the low end shouldn’t be a problem. Read the whole section, ask your benefits coordinator, and breath easier.
I encourage people who are interested in this to really get their hands dirty and understand the bits and pieces, and educate themselves. That allows a decision to be made on the facts, not on some “could happen” scenario, or what some guy told you his brother-in-law heard over coffee… We’ve got about three weeks to have a rational discussion about this problem. My vote is: Use It Constructively