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Connecticut State Workers Sacrifice for the Good of Their State

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It took some doing, but the Connecticut General Assembly has approved a savings-and­-concession agreement negotiated by the State Employees Bargaining Agent Coalition (SEBAC), whose membership includes nearly 14,000 state public service workers represented by Council 4.

On July 31, the state Senate voted 18-18 along partisan lines, with Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman breaking the tie in favor of both the SEBAC agreement and its 34 companion bargaining unit agreements covering more than 40,000 state employees. The state House of Representatives had approved it a week earlier by a vote of 78-72.

The overall agreement calls for state employees to accept wage freezes in the first three years, while contributing more to their pensions and health insurance premiums. In return, state workers will get raises of 3.5 percent in each of the last two years of the agreement, protection against layoffs and outsourcing and an extension of health and pension benefits through 2027.

According to an independent analysis, the SEBAC agreement will save Connecticut taxpayers $1.57 billion over the next two years and $24 billion over 20 years. That's an average sacrifice of $17,500 per worker, as the Hartford Courant noted.

Correctional Officer and AFSCME Local 387 member Sean Howard explained why he voted “yes” for SEBAC.

“My fellow correctional employees and I came together through the collective bargaining process and made a significant sacrifice. We supported the SEBAC agreement because it allows us to keep doing the job we came to do – which is to protect the safety of staff, inmates and our communities,” he said.

Through SEBAC, Connecticut public workers helped close more than 30 percent of a $5 billion budget deficit.

State employees did not the cause the revenue shortfall driving Connecticut's budget deficit, but they agreed to step up and help solve it, as the Norwich Bulletin noted in an editorial.

“We showed that collective bargaining works for Connecticut,” said AFSCME Local 562 Vice President Merisa Williams, a secretary at Western Connecticut State University. “This agreement prevents mass layoffs and deep cuts to the services we all provide. It protects our rights and our futures.”

Passage came despite opposition from the anti-worker Republican caucus – which unsuccessfully launched more than 100 attacks on collective bargaining this year – and a dark money campaign advertising campaign urging a “No” vote in the Senate.

Connecticut still faces a $3.5 billion deficit due mainly to the legislature’s reluctance to ask the ultra-wealthy and corporations to make small sacrifices to protect the quality of life in the state.