The global COVID-19 pandemic is undoubtedly the greatest collective challenge our union members have faced in their lifetimes. Securing adequate compensation for the risks taken by frontline “essential” workers has been a daunting and often frustrating challenge. Our latest collective bargaining report highlights how public employee members tapped the power of “Union YES” to move a neutral arbitrator and state lawmakers to show appreciation for their sacrifice.
Unions in the State Employees Bargaining Agent Coalition (SEBAC), which includes ten AFT Connecticut-affiliated locals, in the spring of 2022 began negotiations with agency chiefs over pandemic hazard pay. Labor leaders had previously agreed to set the issue aside for future resolution in talks that eventually produced agreements for four-year contracts covering more than 40,000 working people.
Click here for our report that highlighted SEBAC’s historic 2022 collective bargaining win.
When union leaders last summer reached a stalemate with state officials, they filed for arbitration in order to achieve a final settlement. That set the stage for hearings in December where state employees, with the assistance of AFT Connecticut Field Representative Logan Place, shared testimony and submitted affidavits about their frontline experience.
“It’s very hard to see a patient die in front of your eyes when you cannot do anything,” Momina Salman, MD (in graphic above, top left), an academic hospitalist at UConn Health (UCH), testified. “I can’t think of how any amount of money can compensate for what we went through. But this pandemic pay is a way of validating that we did something that in our history we have never seen before,” added Salman, a UCHC-AAUP member.
“I taught in a small classroom and often worked with students one-on-one; social distancing was impossible,” Corey Mason (in graphic, lower left), an English instructor at A.I. Prince Technical High School, shared. “Teachers were regularly exposed to students who tested positive for COVID. On top of this was the stress of trying to provide good instruction to students whose mental health was suffering,” added Mason, a State Vocational Federation of Teachers member.
The neutral arbitrator early last month awarded the coalition our “last, best offer” for “hero pay” for both so-called “lower-risk” and “higher-risk” state employees. Those who served on the frontlines and sacrificed their health and safety during the first year of the pandemic each stood to receive an average of $1,300.00.
Click here for the full arbitration award issued by Susan R. Meredith.
The process required the award to be presented as formal resolutions to the state legislature’s budget-writing appropriations committee where late last month they earned favorable votes. Both chambers of the Connecticut General Assembly subsequently took them up for floor votes where they received overwhelming, bipartisan support.
Click here for press reporting on the legislature’s approval of the award.
Eligible employees are expected to receive payments no later than the first pay period following June 7, 2023 (except where there is a dispute or UConn units without hourly records). Retirees who worked during the covered period should see payment no later than December 29, 2023.
Click here for our announcement of the award’s legislative vote featuring photos of additional hearing witnesses.
Ten additional collective bargaining wins have been publicized since our previous quarterly report in late January. Two additional settlements and an expected arbitration award are in progress and will be announced at our social media platforms as they are completed.
Click here for congratulations to our Hartford Federation of Early Childhood Educators on their contract victory.
Click here for our Backus Federation of Nurses’ most recent worksite committee win announcement.
Click here for the notice of another staffing incentive agreement secured by our Danbury Nurses Union.
Click here for the announcement of a new collective bargaining agreement win by our WCMH Employees United members.
Click here for photos of Manchester Federation of LPNs and Techs United members ratifying their new contract.
Click here for our Manchester Memorial Service & Skilled Maintenance Employees United members’ contract win announcement.
Click here for our kudos to educators in Natchaug Hospital United for securing a new collective bargaining agreement.
Click here for the announcement of our Manchester and Rockville Federation of RNs’ merger under a single contract.
Click here for photos of Watertown Federation of Paraprofessionals’ members ratifying and celebrating their new contract.
Click here for the announcement of our CHS United members’ new contracts victory.
Fourteen local unions are currently in, or preparing to begin, contract talks or arbitration hearings.