Archive for the ‘Unions’ Category

0HealthBridge subpoenas Blumenthal, DeLauro, Jepsen and Malloy in RICO suit against union

The Connecticut nursing home company where striking workers became a political issue two years ago has subpoenaed several of the state’s top elected leaders, including Gov. Dannel Malloy and Attorney General George Jepsen.

HealthBridge, owner of eight Connecticut nursing homes, sued the unions striking at five of its locations in 2012 under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, legislation originally intended to fight the mob.

Lawyers for the defendants in the suit – the New England Health Care Employers Union, also known as Service Employees International Union 1199NE, and United Healthcare Workers East, another SEIU affiliate – objected to the subpoenas in a Feb. 21 court filing.

HealthBridge subpoenaed Jepsen and Malloy’s office, plus both of their campaign committees, Sen. Richard Blumenthal, Rep. Rosa DeLauro, state Sen. John Fonfara and state Rep. Russ Morin.

All of the subpoenaed officials are Democrats.

“We have received the subpoenas and are reviewing them,” said Jaclyn Falkowski, a spokeswoman for Jepsen. “We have no further comment at this time.”

Leon Dayan of Bredhoff & Kaiser said in his objection the subpoenas are too broad especially for “this early phase of discovery, which is required to be limited in nature.”

According to Dayan’s objection, HealthBridge issued 92 document requests and 25 interrogatories.

“The depositions’ sole purpose appears to be the improper one of sending the message that if a union or other organization dares to exercise its First Amendment right to petition government officials in a manner that displeases Plaintiffs or their owner, not only will that organization be subject to a harassing lawsuit, but all the organization’s perceived political and other allies can expect to be harassed and have their costs driven up as well,” Dayan wrote.

“Absent intervention by this Court, sitting elected officials and their staffs will be forced to take time away from working for their constituents.”

Dayan also objected to HealthBridge’s efforts not to disclose the name of the former union organizer upon whose testimony the company is relying to make some of its claims.

The Blumenthal subpoena, included in Dayan’s objection, requests documents related to:

– HealthBridge’s application to close a Wethersfield nursing home,

alleged sabotage by striking workers,

– efforts to put HealthBridge nursing homes into receivership.

Jepsen recused himself from any investigations into union sabotage after joining strikers on the picket line.

Company contributions to union pension funds have long been part of the labor dispute at the five nursing homes, which declared bankruptcy last year.

Update: Now with link to objection.

5Labor Dept. gives employee fired for fraud his job back

The Department of Labor fired an employee for improperly handling a friend’s unemployment claim so the friend would receive extra pay, only to bring the former employee back to work months later.

DOL put Edward Lombard on paid administrative leave on Jan. 29, 2013. The next day, Lombardo filed a grievance. The department terminated him on Feb. 11.

A May 1, 2013, agreement allowed Lombardo to return to work “as soon as practical.” As part of the agreement, Lombardo dropped his grievance.

The time between Lombardo’s dismissal and return to work was re-categorized under the agreement as a “30-day disciplinary suspension without pay, with the remaining time recorded as an authorized leave without pay.”

Lombardo earned sick leave and time off as if he were still working during that time, according to the agreement.

“Mr. Lombardo acknowledges that DOL had just cause to dismiss him for violations of the agency’s Employee Conduct Policy which occurred when he improperly processed an unemployment insurance claim for a friend and former colleague,” the agreement says.

Auditors faulted the department for not bringing Lombardo’s fraud to their attention. “The agency failed to inform our office of this matter as required by law,” the Auditors of Public Accounts said in their report. “It also prevents our office from having the necessary information to determine whether appropriate steps are taken by the agency to deter fraudulent behavior and to determine whether such proper controls are in place to detect such fraud.”

A department spokeswoman declined to comment.

According to the auditors, Lombardo processed an emergency unemployment compensation claim for a friend and former department colleague “so that the claimant friend would be paid benefits at a higher rate.”

“The claimant was overpaid $159 per week for five weeks for a total of $795,” the report says. “The department discovered this irregularity in January 2013 and conducted an investigation.”

According to the auditors, the department also failed to recover the overpayment.

Lombardo returned to the department as a community service representative, the same job he had before being fired. He gave the department the ability to assign him to any location and gave up his ability to transfer to Hartford for five years.

The union agreed not to file a grievance on behalf of any employees who make a claim on the position the position given to Lombardo, a member of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees social and human services bargaining unit, also known as P-2.

Lombardo agreed the state could dismiss him if he violated department policy again. He also acknowledged the “extra-contractual” arrangement was a “last chance agreement.”

0Study: New Haven spends more on pensions than other Connecticut cities

A review of 173 cities across the country shows where five of Connecticut’s largest cities stand according to one measure of pension cost.

New Haven ranks 27th and spent 10.2 percent of revenue annually on pensions, according to a study by the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College,. The average across the sample is 7.9 percent, meaning New Haven has an above-average pension cost.

Newly-elected New Haven Mayor Toni Harp, a Democrat and state senator, said during the campaign she supports pension reform.

Measuring pension costs as a share of revenue can shed light on how expensive a city’s pensions are. However, it is only one measure. If one city taxes more aggressively than another – or uses more aggressive actuarial assumptions – it could appear to be lower-cost yet actually provide more expensive benefits.

How much a city pays for pensions today is also a function of how much it failed to pay in the past.

Chicago and Little Rock, Arkansas, lead the list spending 17 and 17.6 percent of revenue on pensions.

At the other end of the spectrum, Greenwich ranked 163rd and spent only 2.2 percent on pensions. Hartford (143) and New Britain (139) also had below-average costs, 3.6 and 3.8 percent, respectively. Bridgeport spends slightly more than average, 8.6 percent, and ranks 43rd.

The center researchers use the costs as determined by actuaries rather than what cities actually pay to measure pension costs. A study by the Census Bureau using actual payments puts the average at 5.6 percent because many cities underfund their pension systems.

Two Connecticut cities in the study send some of their pension contributions to state-run plans, Bridgeport, about one-fifth, and New Britain, more than two-thirds.

0Longevity payments fall to $13.6 million

With the end of longevity payments for non-union state employees, total payments will fall to $13.6 million this month.

Longevity payments for about 27,300 union employees will appear in their Oct. 18 paychecks. (View the list here.)

Two prosecutors, Matthew Crockett and Andrew Slitt, earned the largest bonus, $6,007.50. A group of administrators for the Connecticut State University System earned bonuses above $4,000 as did about two dozen additional prosecutors.

The average payment is just under $500.

The bonuses are paid based on how long an employee has worked for the state in April and October. Six months ago, about 25,000 union workers received longevity payments.

The General Assembly made the non-union bonuses part of regular salaries starting this year. Over time, this will cost the state more money as these employees earn percentage raises on their new, larger salaries. Gov. Dannel Malloy had already frozen their longevity payments.

0Labor Department doesn’t know which unions need to follow regulation

The Connecticut Department of Labor is charged with regulating unions, but it doesn’t even know what unions, if any, fall under an annual reporting requirement.

In particular, a spokeswoman said department doesn’t know if the law applies to the union coalition that represents state employees, the State Employee Bargaining Agent Coalition.

State law requires all “labor organizations” that don’t file reports with the federal Department of Labor to file an annual report with the state. The law authorizes the department to fine union officials $25 for failing to file the report.

SEBAC, the Connecticut Education Association and a number of other unions don’t file at the federal level.

By law, only members of a union are allowed to examine its annual report. However, in response to a Freedom of Information Act request, department spokeswoman Nancy Steffens said the department has no list of the organizations that fall under the statute.

This makes the law “difficult to enforce,” Steffens said.

“Based on that fact, and because unions are required to report information to the IRS that is similar to the information in an annual report, the agency may recommend that the statute be changed or eliminated,” she said.

When asked if SEBAC needs to file an annual report, Steffens said “our Program Policy Unit is uncertain as to whether they would be need to be included in this requirement.”