(As the Malloy Administration and Connecticut State Employee Unions prepare to meet today… )
Connecticut is not Wisconsin, right? Right, Connecticut is not Wisconsin. But let’s not fool ourselves – read on…
Unlike Wisconsin, Connecticut has a Democratic Governor who supports the right of people to join unions and collectively bargain and we have a Republican Party that is not following in the footsteps of the ultra-right, ultra-crazy tea-baggers and their post-modern Republican converts.
That is good news for Connecticut’s unions, their members and society as a whole.
But recognizing the American right to join unions is not a progressive or liberal position.
As has been widely reported in recent days, when Ronald Reagan stood up for the people of Poland in 1991, he reminded that world that “one of the most elemental human rights [is] the right to belong to a free trade union”
American leaders across the political spectrum have recognized that the right to collectively bargain is truly a requirement for a civilized society.
So Governor Malloy does deserve credit for attending the recent State Capitol Rally in support of Wisconsin’s state employees. He deserves credit for doing something that every reasonable American politician should be doing.
But before we think that Connecticut and Wisconsin have nothing in common when it comes to the rights of workers, let us remember that efforts to undercut unions and the rights of employees to join together for their common good come in a variety of forms.
Like bullying, anti-union efforts can be overt, covert or both.
Bullying occurs when a “person intentionally inflicts injury or discomfort upon another person, through physical contact, through words or in other ways”. It is behavior that seeks to intimidate, offend, denigrate or humiliate a person or group of persons.
As we know, now more than ever, bullying is a form of abuse that is often perpetrated on another as a way to intimidate someone to take some particular action.
Governor Malloy’s entire budget is based on state employees agreeing to make $2 billion dollars in wage and benefit concessions.
Anyone familiar with Connecticut’s state budget knows it is a number that literally cannot be achieved and the Governor purposely put out a number that is designed to fail.
Disguised as shared sacrifice, the Governor’s proposal is scapegoating of the worst kind since he has repeatedly connected his demands to the state employees with the warning that if the state employees fail to provide $1 billion in annual savings, he will be forced to shred the safety net and lay-off thousands of employees at a time the unemployment rate makes it clear that many of those laid off will not be able to find jobs.
Malloy has been very clear. If state employees don’t come up with a billion dollars in concessions - this year - the most vulnerable and needy people among us will be hurt and the fault will lie squarely with the state employees and no one else.
Even today, as the Malloy Administration and the state employee unions prepare to officially sit down for the first time, Malloy’s chief political advisor said that the “governor hopes and expects the talks to be productive and will produce the money that's necessary to help balance the budget,"
The money necessary to balance the budget?
The facts could not be clearer.
Take away any and all pay raises for state employees. Institute a dozen furlough days to cut their pay by 5 percent, blow their healthcare co-pays and deductions through the roof and the budget savings comes to about $388 million next year.
Cut pay by 10% and you still don’t top $500 million in savings – far, far short of the $1 billion Malloy says he must have this year, yet alone the other $1 billion next year.
Saying that his budget is balanced when he knows it is not and then setting up Connecticut’s state employees to take the fall is more than a gimmick, it is nothing short of a mean-spirited form of bullying.
While Governor Malloy was speaking at a rally in support of Wisconsin’s state employees, the Malloy Administration was effectively setting up Connecticut’s state employees to become public enemy #1.
The definition of bullying is clear. A person or group is being bullied when “exposed, repeatedly and over time, to actions that seek to intimidate, offend, denigrate or humiliate.
Let’s face it, today the Connecticut’s Public Employee Unions will be sitting down with representatives of an Administration that would be expelled from school or fired from the workplace for the intentional bullying that they have perpetrated.
Now let's ask the question again, is Connecticut really that different from Wisconsin?