Members of our affiliated Western Connecticut United Professionals (WCTUP) in early April ratified a successor contract after months of challenging negotiations with Western Connecticut Health Network (WCHN) administrators. The vote followed a breakthrough in talks achieved with strong support at the table by rank-and-file medical technicians and clinicians for their local union’s negotiating committee.
“It pays to be seen and be heard,” said Matt Hollins, a committee member who works as an X-Ray/CAT Scan technologist at Danbury Hospital. “The number of members showing up to back our bargaining team increased with each session. Five months in, it was standing-room-only in the conference room. That’s why management had no choice but to keep talking,” added Hollins, who also serves as the local union’s interim president.
Hollins’ comments refer to a near breakdown in efforts to secure a first successor collective bargaining agreement for the technical professionals at Danbury and New Milford Hospitals. When WCHN management in mid March threatened impasse, committee members organized the largest turn-out to date for a bargaining session.
“They heard our voice and negotiations were back on,” said Hollins. “That was the momentum we needed to win.”
The committee, with the support of AFT Connecticut Field Representative Ben Wenograd, two weeks later reached a tentative agreement with the network on a new three-year contract. In addition to signing-off on annual wage increases in the final settlement, WCHN administrators dropped previous proposals to roll-back retirement and paid time off benefits.
Additional non-economic gains include stronger seniority protections and the creation of a labor-management committee tasked with developing clinical ladders for the technical professionals at both acute care facilities.
for photos of members casting their ballots on the final day of the contract vote.
The new agreement’s provisions covering working conditions are retroactive to December 31, 2018 and its wage increases were applied to the payroll check issued following ratification.
State and local labor leaders this spring celebrated legislative approval of resolutions codifying expanded collective bargaining rights for hundreds of public employees historically denied a voice on the job. Lawmakers between March and May gave the green light to 10 arbitration awards and negotiated “impact bargaining” agreements, including six for members of AFT Connecticut-affiliated local public employee unions.
“It was exciting to be there for the culmination of a years-long effort,” said Michael Barry (left, in photo above with Ruth Andrusko and Roy Larson), a juvenile probation officer (JPO) at the Rockville Superior Court. “I wanted to be with our newest members when the agreement bringing them into our union came up for debate. For me, it reinforced the importance of solidarity,” added Barry, who serves as secretary for our affiliated Judicial Professional Employees (JPE) union.
Barry’s comments refer to one of three resolutions approving accretion agreements extending previously established wages, benefits and rules governing working conditions to nearly 200 employees of Connecticut’s court system. As full union members, they are now entitled to the provisions in both JPE’s individual bargaining unit contract as well as the State Employees Bargaining Agent Coalition’s (SEBAC) master pact.
“This was a true team effort,” added Barry, who in June wrapped up a two-year term serving as AFT Connecticut’s vice president for public employees. “It showed that the ‘U and I in Union’ is key to winning a better future for more working people.”
for our previous report on JPE’s victories organizing Judicial Branch employees.
These newest members on July 1 saw the “union difference” when their earnings were boosted by the first of four annual wage increases and bonuses through June of 2022. They additionally benefitted during the same payroll period from lower health insurance costs enjoyed by state employees protected by the SEBAC master contract.
Before adjourning in early June, legislators also adopted resolutions on two accretion agreements for 30 Executive Branch employees who recently joined our Administrative & Residual (A&R) Employees Union. Earlier in the session they additionally approved an arbitration award for the first bargaining unit contract for our members of our Association of Connecticut Assistant Attorneys General (AAGs).
for our recent podcast episode highlighting A&R’s new impact bargaining agreements.