It has been a little over a year since I retired from CSEA after 31 years of service. During my retirement, I continue to share my institutional memory with CSEA members and staff to help find a resolution to a problem or an issue.
It is my hope to bring a sense of history and prospective to current issues affecting public employees. So for this column, I want to briefly list some, but not all, of CSEA’s greatest achievements:
1. Retiree Health Insurance – After a five year legislative campaign, CSEA Council 400 secured free retiree health insurance for state retirees. During that five year period of time, the State’s share of the retiree health insurance cost went from 10% to 100%. Conversely, state retirees went from paying 90% of the cost to paying zero.
2. Pay Equity – After a 16 year fight initiated by CSEA in the late 70’s, a coalition of State employee unions including CSEA achieved a first in the nation agreement to eliminate wage inequities including inequities based upon sex and race. This agreement did not do so by lowering the wages of some state employees, but by upgrading undervalued classifications through a process called the Objective Job Evaluation (OJE).
3. Privatization of Information Technology – Against the proclamations of pundits and politicians, CSEA, or as we were referred to in the media as that spunky union on Capitol Avenue, defeated then Governor Rowland’s effort to outsource all of the state’s information technology systems and to lay off 600 state IT professionals. This fight which gained national attention took 2 ½ years for CSEA members and its allies including SEIU to defeat what could have been a disastrous public policy. And recently,
4. True Health Care Pooling – The idea for health care pooling began in 1991 as a savings idea in SEBAC’s discussion with the Weicker Administration. The idea was very simple; allow municipalities and school boards to join the State health care plan so as to bring the State’s bargaining clout to municipalities and school boards. It would allow our municipal and school board members to enjoy our excellent benefits and at the same time save the taxpayers money because of the cost effectiveness of the State plan.
5. Rowland Lawsuit – In 2003, union leaders and members publicly signed a pledge to seek justice for state employees that were laid off for exercising their first amendment rights of association and free speech. Today, that pledge we made to laid off state employees is about to come fruition. The agreement which was not rejected during the recent session of the General Assembly and waits final approval from the Federal Court will bring justice to many harmed by our former Governor.
The lesson to be learned about all these great achievements was that it required a sustained struggle by members to achieve these gains for all our members.