Archive for the ‘Unions’ Category

4Teachers’ union official with state appointment describes herself online as a proud “union thug”

AFT Union Thug highlightA Connecticut teachers’ union official who holds an appointed position in state government calls herself a “union thug and proud of it” on her Twitter page.

Jean Morningstar is second vice president of the American Federation of Teachers Connecticut. Gov. Dannel Malloy appointed her to serve on the State Contracting Standards Board last year.

A recent tweet included a picture of Morningstar posing with Malloy.

After a fight over education reform including proposed changes to teacher tenure, Malloy and AFT have grown close again.

Malloy and AFT national President Randi Weingarten are expected Friday to tour schools together in Meriden and New Haven.

Last month, Malloy appointed Erin Benham, one of 22 AFT Connecticut vice presidents, to the State Board of Education.

In 2012, Malloy appointed Sharon Palmer, then president of AFT Connecticut, to serve as labor commissioner.

1SCOTUS ruling strikes blow to CT’s forced unionization scheme

As millions anxiously awaited the Supreme Court’s decision in Hobby Lobby v Sebelius (regarding the Affordable Care Act’s mandate that all employers provide contraception coverage despite religious objections) the Justices released their decision in another case that has quietly dealt a huge blow to public unions and to decisions made by Governor Malloy and the General Assembly.

In Harris v Quinn the Court ruled that home healthcare workers providing services to individuals who receive state or federal funding should not be required to pay dues to a union that represents public employees (mainly the SEIU and AFSCME). This precedent sends shots across the bow of public union advocates seeking to add to their political coffers by forcing anyone who operates near government money to pay some sort of union fee.

The details of this case should sound familiar to folks here in Connecticut. In 2011 Governor Malloy, via two Executive Orders, effectively forced individuals providing home daycare and home health care services similar to those in Harris to pay union dues, regardless of whether or not they wished to unionize. The logic behind this fiat being that since these employees, mainly mothers running daycare out of their homes and healthcare workers contracted by persons needing in-home care, often provide services for individuals who receive public money through Medicare, Medicaid etc. they should therefore be considered public employees.

Unions have tried this in numerous states claiming that these private employees are “free riding” on the collective bargaining efforts of local unions who are of course only seeking to ostensibly improve things for workers, society and the human condition. In reality anyone who follows the money can see that this is a strong arm tactic that enables unions swing the political pendulum in their favor by getting and keeping Democrats in office by expanding their donor base by force.

In response to Malloy’s Executive Orders a slew of lawsuits were filed against him in 2012. Among them was a suit filed by the Yankee Institute on behalf of Cathy Ludlum. Ms. Ludlum, who suffers from Spinal Muscle Atrophy, wished to prevent the twelve people she employed, who helped her with everything from running her business to eating, from being forced unwillingly into the SEIU.

At a personal level it was argued that this forced unionization scheme effectively changes the relationship between employer and employee. When a union attempts to inorganically force its way into this relationship the people who get pushed to the side are the ones that actually need care. Loyalty for the service providers is diverted from their employers, such as Ms. Ludlum, to their union bosses. It was also argued that Malloy’s actions intruded upon a constitutional authority reserved for the Legislature.

Unfortunately for Ms. Ludlum and her peers in 2012 the CT General Assembly, who could not pass up the opportunity for increased campaign support, passed a bill that concurred with Malloy’s executive actions. In late 2012 the State Superior Court ruled that the lawsuits against the actions were rendered moot by the passage of legislation.

Fast forward to Monday June 30, 2014 and it appears as if the suits filed against the Governor may have not been all in vain.

The SCOTUS ruling on the Harris case is extremely narrow and pertains to only home healthcare workers, preventing them from being considered state employees and therefore subject to forced unionization. However, it signals victory for those types of workers in CT like those employed by Cathy Ludlum who do not wish to pay union dues and will now be able to opt out.

While unions will react to this decision by saying it is anti-worker, anti-poor, anti-(insert sacred cow of the left here) those who truly understand the underbelly of union politics should take solace in the fact devious tactics used to expand union influence have been put on hold; for now. For every freedom loving individual the holding in Harris (and Hobby Lobby) represents just a little bit more decision making power returned to the hands of individuals. Such a nice Independence Day gift from SCOTUS!

Andrew is a Tax Consultant at Alternate Tax Solutions and a Summa Cum Laude graduate of CCSU.  

1Will government unions spend millions on Connecticut politics again?

Connecticut’s public employee unions are big players in the state’s elections, spending millions on their political operations, which may affect 2014 races.

The unions are a highly-focused, highly-motivated interest group when it comes to state-level elections, because the candidates who win will sit directly across the table from them during contract negotiations.

It can be a difficult task to “follow the money” when it comes to unions and campaign spending, but by searching the state’s online database of campaign contributions expenditures, a clearer picture of how much public sector unions are spending on state-level campaigns emerges.

In the two years between the 2010 and 2012 state elections, the largest public sector unions – including the Service Employees International Union (SEIU); American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME); American Federation of Teachers (AFT); and the Connecticut Education Association (CEA) – spent $834,968.51, on campaigns for state and local offices, the vast majority of it going to candidates or committees from the Democratic and Working Family parties.

The two years between the 2010 and 2012 state elections were tumultuous for state employees – it was during this time that they were in heated negotiations with Gov. Dan Malloy over a new contract.

Contributions to PACs and to candidates made up most of the $800,000-plus in spending, which was given primarily to elect state representatives and state senators since there were no statewide races in 2012.

Federal law requires unions to file disclosures on their political spending. The Department of Labor makes those disclosures available through an online database – unionreports.gov.

According to the disclosures filed with the Department of Labor, Connecticut’s public sector unions SEIU, AFT and AFSCME (none were found for the CEA) spent $4,286,949.85 on political activities in the years 2011-2013.

Anything unions do to support candidates for federal or state office is included in that amount – including political contributions or political activities like getting voters to the polls on election day.

0Agreement with parole officers restores nearly three years of expired time off

The Department of Correction agreed last year to restore nearly three years of expired time off for 40 parole officers, an average of 3.5 weeks each.

In 2011, auditors discovered an accounting glitch that allowed a small group of state employees to build up thousands of hours of extra time off. At least 40 parole officers kept compensatory time that should have expired.

The department fixed the error and time off started expiring for the parole officers. Their union negotiated the 2013 agreement to restore 5,800 of properly expired leave.

According to a list attached to the agreement, the Department of Correction reinstated time off ranging from half an hour for one parole officer to 688 hours – more than 17 weeks – for another.

In all, Connecticut owes its employees about $676 million for paid time off, down slightly from fiscal year 2012 when the value exceeded $700 million.

DOC had the parole officers in the wrong category. After auditors found the problem, DOC put the employees into the correct leave plan and opened negotiations with the union to determine how to handle the improperly-earned time off.

The department signed a March 2013 agreement with AFSCME Council 4 to resolve the issue by reinstating time off that expired between October 2012 and January 2013, which amounted to 147 weeks or nearly three years. The parole officers have three years to use the time off granted under the agreement.

DOC spokeswoman Karen Martucci said the agreement with the union set out to “address a discrepancy identified through an audit of the agency’s financial records.”

“Specifically, parole officers were entered into the payroll computer system coded into an incorrect leave plan, which wasn’t consistent with the compensatory time expiration language applicable to that job classification,” Martucci said. “The DOC and the union were in agreement to meet and discuss a fair resolution to the issue, which ultimately resulted in this signed contract.”

1HealthBridge 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.”