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Standing Up to the State Employee “Blame Game”

Despite the expiration of their legislative mandate last spring, the chairs of the Commission on Fiscal Stability and Economic Growth (FIST) late last month resurfaced with a set of repackaged proposals. Their so-called “2.0” recommendations differed from those first presented in March only in their increased harshness toward state employee union members and their families.
Click here for our previous report on the commission’s earlier anti-labor proposals.
“The big business elites heading up this commission apparently missed one of the biggest takeaways from November 6,” said AFT Connecticut President Jan Hochadel “Connecticut voters aren’t buying the myth of trickle-down economics,” she added. 
In addition to their basis on false and inaccurate claims about state employees, the FIST’s latest recommendations are immoral and unlawful, as they suggest officials ignore binding contracts. They would further fail to improve Connecticut’s economy if implemented; worse, their impact on critical public services would slow and even reverse recent progress.
For labor leaders, the FIST chairs demonstrated a complete tone deafness in the wake of elections in which residents rejected tired attempts at scapegoating state employees.
“How else to explain a report pushing the kind of Trumpian austerity approach that lawmakers in Kansas and many other struggling states now openly admit doesn’t work?” Hochadel asked rhetorically. 
Click here for public comments on the recommendations from Connecticut union leaders, including Hochadel.
Underlying this latest smear against state employees is the ongoing campaign by deep-pocketed special interests to permanently weaken our labor movement. Their front groups and corporate lobbyists are certainly not allowing their defeat at the polls in November of a majority of their bankrolled candidates to deter their scheme.
The Yankee Institute for Public Policy (YIPP), the right wing State Policy Network’s (SPN) Connecticut affiliate, has not relented in its attempts to publicly defame state workers. The dark money-funded “think tank” has when lobbying lawmakers long demonized union members and this past year taken their harassment to a new low.
“Legislators and the governor-elect need to understand who is perpetuating the state employee ‘blame game,'” said Michael Barry (middle, in photo above), a juvenile probation officer (JPO) at the Rockville Superior Court. “The same people behind opposition to our pension reform and cost saving agreements last year in Hartford are also trying to undermine our unions in our communities. Any ‘policy proposals’ they push should be rejected on arrival,” added Barry, who serves as AFT Connecticut’s vice president for public employees and our Judicial Professional Employees (JPE) union’s secretary.
Barry’s comments refer to the campaign the YIPP in May began with solicitations to state employees’ private homes with deceptive pitches designed to discourage union membership. The group previously lobbied against landmark agreements reached by leaders of the State Employee Bargaining Agent Coalition (SEBAC) to stabilize retirement security and secure jobs — all while saving taxpayers billions.
Click here for press reporting on YIPP’s attempts to bust public sector unions in Connecticut.
A favored target of both the FIST and YIPP are public employees’ defined benefit pensions, despite the significant contribution they provide to economic growth in Connecticut. To anti-union special interests, such plans have long represented an obstacle to funneling investments to Wall Street traders at the expense of working peoples’ long term retirement security.
Lawmakers beholden to the big business lobby at the state capitol have for the past four years bolstered the special interests’ by echoing their false claims about union members’ pensions. While a General Assembly that better represents working people will on January 9 convene in Hartford, a strong defense of earned retirement benefits remains a priority.
“State employees should never assume that our futures are completely secure, even with our electoral wins,” said Ally Sexton, a legal services attorney in the transportation department. “Instead, we should be keeping politicians who claim to be ‘pro-worker’ to their word and hold them to honoring our agreements. That means more, not less, direct action advocacy,” added Sexton, AFT Connecticut’s Legislative/Political Action Committee (LPAC) chair and a member of our Administrative & Residual (A&R) Employees Union’s representative assembly.
Sexton’s comments refer to the wins last month of candidates for statewide office, from governor to comptroller, and the legislature who campaigned as champions for working people. Connecticut’s labor movement, which came together to affect change at the ballot box, will need to remain engaged and focused on ensuring the balance and fairness our members voted for.
Click here for our report on the results of the November General Election.

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