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SEBAC Unions Respond To Sen. Fasano’s Push To Take Away Raises

On April 23, Senate Minority Leader Leonard Fasano wrote to SEBAC chief negotiator Daniel E. Livingston and asked that Connecticut public service workers delay their 3.5% general wage increase due July 1, 2020.

April 23, 2020

Dear Senator Fasano,

We are in receipt of your letter to the Coalition purporting to be seeking help for “non-profits and the social safety net during the coronavirus pandemic.”    We are disappointed to see that even in the midst of a historic national crisis instead of coming together in support of all working families – and especially the frontline workers public and private, profit  and non-profit who are keeping us all safe  — your caucus  resorts to the cynical, manipulative and divisive behavior for which it has become famous.   

Unlike the tiny comfortable minority of millionaires and billionaires your caucus truly represents, state workers together with the non-profits actually help provide the critical safety net upon which the most vulnerable in our state depend.   Among our members are doctors, nurses, and nurses aids on the front lines, corrections officer in virus infested prisons,  social workers protecting seniors and children and many others struggling to provide services even in the midst of escalating public risks.   And our members have given back again and again and again to protect public services no matter who provides them.  

Our most recent agreement — which every member of your caucus voting against claiming the savings “weren’t real” — was independently estimated to save the State over $1.5 billion in its first biennium alone, and over $24 billion over $20 years.   After two years, the Comptroller examined the savings and found that we saved even more than estimated.  It is that agreement, which began with 3 years of hard zeros and included premium share and retirement contribution increases and many other hard sacrifices, that finally included the wage increase in its last two years you now want to delay.

As for the millionaires and billionaires you really represent,  primarily as a result of the unending efforts of your caucus, they continue to pay less in state and local taxes as a share of their income than the working poor and middle classes.   And the Walmarts of the world who you also defend from even the most modest efforts to protect workers, pay even less.

We recognize that your letter is merely a cynical effort to get a headline – a fact proven by the fact that you released it to the news media at almost precisely the time you sent it, far before union leaders would even have a chance to read it.  Perhaps it is driven by your rumored run for governor, and if so, is a sad but not unexpected start.  

But if you want to make real news, and make a real difference for non-profit workers, for the people they, and state workers serve and for all working families in our state, try retracting your letter.   Instead, try thanking all the front-line workers, state and private who are risking their lives for all of us,  and asking your millionaire and billionaire friends to pay their fair share of taxes.   “State Senator Len Fasano Asks Billionaires To Pay Their Fair Share To Help Struggling Non-Profits And All Of Connecticut’s Working Families.”   Now there’s a headline worth reading.

Very Truly Yours,

Dan Livingston
Chief Negotiator, SEBAC

Statement of SEBAC Leadership on the Killing of George Floyd and Racial Justice

On behalf of 45,000 state employees represented through SEBAC, many of them staffing the front lines in the struggle to contain the COVID-19 pandemic, we want to raise our voice in unequivocal condemnation of our nation’s oldest pandemic – racism.  

We proudly serve the people of this state – and that includes thousands of us who serve as first responders in health care, firefighting, and law enforcement.   Law enforcement is meant to be a profession of public service, exemplified by the thousands of first responders who ran into the burning buildings on 9/11, and who run towards, instead of away from, so many dangerous events that threaten the public we serve.  

When policing is infected by the systemic racism and violence that sadly infects so much of our society, when not only justice but life itself depends upon the color of a person’s skin, policing becomes a mockery of its motto “to protect and serve.”  State workers not only condemn that degeneration of what it means to be a public servant – we stand proudly in support of and alongside those who are struggling to change it.

All working families, black, brown and white, are diminished by a nation that over a century and a half after the formal elimination of slavery, still leaves black people and other people of color victimized by systems that institutionalize racism – criminal justice, education, housing, healthcare, and the economy.  

We know as union members, black, brown, and white,  that we can only rise together, and that the divisions caused by racial oppression only help to sustain a system in which all working families, the vast majority of Americans, continue to fall behind, where most are only a paycheck away from bankruptcy,  where economic insecurity is the defining characteristic of almost everyone except the tiny percentage of multimillionaires and billionaires who are thriving in today’s broken system. 

This system of unfathomable division by class and race, and the politics of hatred, bigotry and envy it supports, is nothing like the democracy we teach our children America is supposed to be.  We must find a way to change it.

As public servants, we pledge to continue our fight to provide the critical services upon which all our communities and our economy depend, and to challenge in every way we can the myriad ways in which systemic racism impedes and degrades that effort. 

As union brothers and sisters, we pledge to stand with all of our brothers and sisters, black, brown, and white, as they struggle to realize the America we’ve all been promised – one that truly is one nation,  with liberty and justice for all.  

If nothing else, watching the video of those men using the authority granted them by the City of Minneapolis to take George Floyd’s life tells us how far we are from that America today.  If we have the courage to stand together and demand the change we all need, we will be much closer to that America tomorrow.

SEBAC Union Leadership Comments on Meeting with Administration (Updated 5.9.20)

Coalition Update:
as of May 9, 2020

To All State Employee Unions:

On May 1st, in response to questions about contractual raises due to state employees in the next fiscal year, Governor Lamont publicly stated his administration’s intent to meet with state employee leaders to ask that members “help with the pain we are all sharing” as a result of the COVID-19 crisis.  That meeting took place on May 5th, with SEBAC union leaders attending solely to listen to the administration. No further meetings with the administration are scheduled. 

Of course, state employees are already sharing the state’s fiscal pain.  Those raises are due in accordance with the 2017 SEBAC Agreement, where state employees to date have received one general wage increase in the last four fiscal years. Meanwhile large corporations and multi-millionaires and billionaires have done little to help address state fiscal issues. Their state and local tax rate remains below that of working families.

The 2017 SEBAC agreement will save taxpayers $24 billion over 20 years, thanks to wage freezes, increased employee contributions to our health care and pensions, furlough days, the establishment of yet another lower benefit pension tier, and more. In fact in its first two years it has saved $1.7 billion, even more than expected.  This is on top of the $1 billion a year in savings produced by SEBAC 2009 and SEBAC 2011.

SEBAC Unions represent 47,000 members continuing to serve the public through the greatest health crisis seen in over a century.

SEBAC union leaders will keep members informed if there are any further developments.

In solidarity,

Steering Committee Members
State Employees Bargaining Agent Coalition (SEBAC)

Coalition Update:
May 1, 2020

To All State Employee Unions:

Officials from the administration of Governor Ned Lamont have requested an informal meeting with our coalition to hear the administration’s views about the fiscal situation caused by the ongoing COVID-19 (novel coronavirus) crisis. Leaders of the 16 unions in the State Employees Bargaining Agent Coalition (SEBAC) have agreed to meet in order to hear more.

A further update and information will be provided following the meeting, which has not yet been scheduled. 

Additional updates will are available at the coalition website at www.ctstateemployees.org.

More to come, and in solidarity,

Steering Committee Members

State Employees Bargaining Agent Coalition (SEBAC)

Union Rights and Collective Bargaining Just Saved Connecticut $1.7 Billion

Comptroller Kevin Lembo recently issued the state’s first annual SEBAC Savings Analysis Report, detailing how the 2017 State Employees Bargaining Agent Coalition (SEBAC) agreement has saved Connecticut $1.7 billion since 2018. 

State employee union members said the savings to taxpayers are proof that collective bargaining works for Connecticut.

“Some at the time criticized the 2017 agreement as not being harmful enough to state workers,” said Ed Leavy, a long-time English teacher at Bullard-Havens Technical High School. “What those critics failed to understand is that the best agreements aren’t measured by how much pain they cause, but by how much good they do. That agreement got Connecticut’s financial situation to a much better place than we would be in otherwise.”

“State employees have once again shown that the way out of our economic challenges isn’t to sideline working people. Union members stepped up and helped solve a serious budget shortfall because it was a necessary sacrifice to protect the important services that we dedicate our lives to,” added Marybeth Hill, president of AFSCME Local 2663, which represents more than 2,000 workers in human and social services.  

“This was a sacrifice made predominantly by middle-class families, and it is a sacrifice that has not been matched, nor even offered, by the wealthy or corporations in this state,” continued Hill, a veteran social worker with the Department of Children and Families.

SEBAC union leadership emphasized that finding common ground and building consensus can lead to bargaining outcomes that benefit all of Connecticut.

“We are especially pleased by how much money we have saved with ‘win-win’ ideas that are good for everyone. For instance, our quality based preferred provider network and smart shopper program is saving the state millions in medical claims, while keeping members healthier and cutting costs for them as well,” said Carl Chisem, President of the Connecticut Employees Union Independent (CEUI-SEIU Local 511). CEUI membership includes nearly 4,000 state employees who cook, clean, repair, maintain and deliver to state buildings, hospitals, campuses, airports, roads, bridges, and parks.

 “Our members are proud to make a difference in the lives of the students we serve,” added Leavy, the president of the AFT Connecticut-affiliated State Vocational Federation of Teachers. “Through honest and respectful collective bargaining with our sisters and brothers in other unions, we help make a difference for all of Connecticut’s families.”

The State Employees Bargaining Agent Coalition (SEBAC) serves to unite all 15 unions representing approximately 40,000 Connecticut State public service workers together to address issues of common concern.

SEBAC Analysis on Administration Response to COVID-19, Including Revised Guidelines & Protocols (4/20/20)

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Union leaders from SEBAC (the State Employee Bargaining Agent Coalition) have been combining efforts to make sure that the perspectives of frontline workers are being heard as the State’s response to COVID-19 evolves. 

  • Click here for the latest SEBAC analysis, OPM/DAS guidelines and new housing protocols. (Updated 4/20/20) 

During this crisis, SEBAC has asked for  a daily point of contact between a designated union leader for each bargaining unit and a designated management representative so there will be continuous sharing of information. As always, if you have questions, be sure to start with your local union steward and leadership structure.

As we state in our report, we face a public health challenge unlike any we have encountered in recent memory.  The solidarity and dedication of our membership gives us the confidence that we will face it well, and come out stronger than we went in, although we know it will not be without disruption and suffering. 

We will keep members informed as things evolve and change and urge all members to reach out to union representatives and leads with their views, ideas and concerns as we move through this crisis and forward to better days.

Additional Resources for Members:

A Union-made Solution to the PPE Shortage

UConn Health Labor Coalition Driving Effort to Protect Health Care Workers and Their Patients

A mass 3D-printing effort is underway on the UConn Health and UConn Storrs campuses to help address the shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE) for health care workers.

The result is a relatively simple and inexpensive plastic frame that creates a proper seal on the much-sought-after N95 respirator mask.

The breakthrough comes from a collaboration between several of UConn’s labor unions and the UConn Health administration with the common goal of making sure that UConn Health’s clinical care providers – and ultimately all providers – will have the necessary PPE as they work on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The AAUP chapters from UCH and Storrs brought doctors, engineers and scientists together to collaborate who were already trying, individually, to address the PPE shortage. In addition to the alliance of faculty unions, the group now includes graduate students (Graduate Employees Union, UAW Local 6950),  and UHP, and nonunion collaborators like Dr. Chris Wiles, an intern in UConn’s emergency medicine residency program.

Dr. Michael Baldwin (UCHC-AAUP), a UConn Health radiologist who is coordinating the production of frames and mask acquisition explains, “An example of the collaboration of our working group is the 40,000 N95 masks that were discovered in a UCH warehouse. Unfortunately, they were unusable because they didn’t seal properly.”

“When we shared the unusable N95 mask with our team member Chris Wiles, he showed us a retrofit frame that he’d adapted and it fit perfectly over the mask!   UConn Health immediately ordered plastic to build these. Our cross-campus team will investigate the best way to keep the exoskeleton frames clean and we are also producing face shields, ”added Dr. Baldwin

Baldwin continues, “So immediately we go from a critical shortage of N95s to 40,000 potentially usable masks, and all we have to do is print these frames, which are a fraction of the cost of what buying new masks would cost. Our next challenge became printing the frames and finding enough 3D printers to do the job! We worked with UCH administration to inventory all of the 3D printers on both campuses. An email was sent to all of the labs requesting help. Volunteers like Elifho Obopilwe answered our call and thankfully started printing frames super early the very next morning!”

Elifho Obopilwe, (University Health Professionals, AFT Local 3837), a research associate in the UConn Musculoskeletal Institute, who fired up his lab’s 3D printer at 4a.m. Saturday states,  “This is really just an example of what we’re all about and I’m glad to be part of the team.”

The immediate objective is to fabricate 10,000 mask frames, which can be cleaned and reused once the N95 is replaced, and individually assign them to clinical care providers.

More than 13,000 of the N95 respirator masks that would become usable with the frames were secured by Dawn Humphries (UHP), a medical assistant in UConn Health’s Calhoun Cardiology Center. She called her friend Mike Clavette, whose family owns New England Industrial Supply in Newington, and asked if he had any PPE he could make available at cost.

“The amount of cases that he brought out to the loading dock was truly overwhelming; I started to cry,” Humphries says. “I told him, ‘You don’t know how many lives you’re protecting or saving with this valuable equipment.’”

Meanwhile, led by our cross-campus working group, labs in both Storrs and Farmington are busy with design and fabrication of face shields that are currently being used in the emergency department and with particle testing that could lead to the development of new masks.

“Our AAUP colleagues and other providers at UConn Health are on the front lines of caring for the public. We’re proud to lend a hand and collaborate with UCH-AAUP faculty to develop and produce much needed PPE. This is another example of how union doctors, researchers and support staff across UConn campuses collaborate on solutions to critical problems. Together we can overcome this challenge,” says Thomas Bontly, President, UConn-AAUP.

“Not only are we caring for patients, but we are working with colleagues from UConn Health and UConn Storrs to problem solve for the public good. The value of our public health care center and university is proven again and again that it is the best investment a society can make for a healthier future and for the good of the public. In times of crisis, a public academic medical center such as UConn Health provides critical care to our community” says Dr. Ibrahim Elali, nephrologist and President of AAUP’s UConn Health Chapter.

If you would like to join our cross-campus working group, with labs in both Storrs and Farmington please email Cindy Polinsky, Executive Director at UCHC-AAUP at executive.director@uchc-aaup.org.

If you have PPEs that can be donated to UConn Health follow the link https://health.uconn.edu/coronavirus/ppe-donations/

The UConn Health Labor Coalition consisting of 4,000 union members organized at UConn Health. Representing Doctors, Nurses, Respiratory Therapists, Laboratory Technicians Scientists, Biologists, Professors, Dental Health Professionals, Administrative Staff, Ambulance and Police Officers.   We are currently on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic.  The unions that represent the health care workers at UConn Health are University Healthcare Professionals (UHP), SEIU, 1199 New England, A&R, UCHP-AAUP, CEUI, and AFSCME Council 4/Local 196.