Expanding Our Power in Numbers

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This latest group (in photo above) includes a diverse range of professionals; information technology (IT) analysts, accountants, microcomputer specialists, internal auditors, staff development specialists and 13 additional job classifications. Their settlement, signed Thursday at the State Board of Labor Relations (SBLR), empowers them with workplace representation denied to them for four decades.
 
"We organized because we wanted a seat at the table in discussing our working conditions," said Nikoleta Smith, an accountant with 18 years of service in the branch. "We wanted a collective voice, which is why we went to the labor board together. We knew that no one was going to look out for our job security but us,” added Smith, who served on the organizing committee for this latest group to unionize.
 
Smith's comments refer to several of the factors that motivated her and her colleagues to seek the same benefits and safeguards extended to their colleagues in JPE. They include a system for resolving grievances and "just cause" protections in disciplinary matters codified in the current individual unit contract. Additionally, as part of the State Employees Bargaining Agency Coalition (SEBAC), they will be shielded from layoffs through 2021.
 
Click here for more on the current protections won last year for members of SEBAC-affiliated unions.
 
"Joining the union was an easy decision for us," said Louis Piazza, a microcomputer specialist with years of service in the branch. "I organized with my co-workers because of no raises, no opportunities for promotion and higher medical costs. It’s how we’ll tackle the rising cost of living we all face," added Piazza, a member of the organizing committee. 
 
Piazza's comments refer to the individual economic factors that have over the past year galvanized a collective response from branch employees seeking union representation. This latest group was preceded by fifty of their colleagues who in four successive waves additionally won voluntary recognition of their free choice  to join JPE.
 
Legal service attorneys in October of 2017 achieved the first victory and were soon followed by permanent law court clerks and additional staff in the state’s supreme and appellate courts. A diverse group of non-chamber professionals and assistant jury administrators then achieved similar recognition agreements with the branch.
 
The spike in membership for JPE has taken place during an overall unionization surge among Connecticut's public sector workforce. State employees have been at the forefront, organizing in numbers not seen since the initial wave after winning collective bargaining rights in 1975.
 
Click here for our previous report on successful efforts to unite state employees into our union family.
 
That growth has defied expectations in the face of unprecedented attacks on the nation's labor movement following the U.S. Supreme Court's Janus vs. AFSCME, Council 31 decision in June. Despite a deceptive campaign by the dark money-fueled special interests behind the lawsuit, Connecticut's public sector workers are "sticking together" for strength.
 
"Bringing these judicial professionals into our union family was fundamentally about achieving fairness and equity," said JPE interim President Deborah Kern. "They belong at the negotiating table with us when it comes to decisions impacting them and their families — particularly their pay, pension and healthcare. We’re looking forward to having them at our side," added Kern, who works as a family relations counselor in the branch's New Haven Family Services office.
 
Click here for recent reporting on the failing attempt by anti-union forces to weaken the movement in our state.
 
The next steps for Smith, Piazza and their branch colleagues as newly minted union members include "impact bargaining" to finalize coverage under JPE's current contract. Securing its protections and benefits couldn't come at a more crucial time for these hard-working professionals who just a week ago were facing an uncertain future without them.