The General Assembly might have abruptly ended the 2020 legislative session due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but they will be coming back for their regularly scheduled session on January 6. A lot has happened since legislators closed the Legislative Office Building and State Capitol in March, but we still find ourselves confronting a deadly and spreading virus. As well as dealing with political opponents who want to use this global tragedy as an excuse to harm public employees and retirees and destroy collective bargaining. CSEA members have always stood up when it comes to fighting to protect our jobs, our benefits, and the services we provide, and the 2021 session will be no different.
Every year, CSEA’s Legislative Action Committee (LAC), which is made up of members from throughout our local, puts together a legislative agenda to focus our efforts and highlight our priorities during the General Assembly’s session. After the LAC has recommended an agenda, Executive Council members review it, discuss it, and then vote on its approval. In agendas from past years, we’ve fought for and won things like paid sick days, FMLA rights for paraeducators, and a stronger role for the State Contracting Standards Board. Together, we’ve also successfully fought back against efforts to further privatize public services, expand the use of public private partnerships, and make unilateral changes to pension and health care benefits.
This year’s agenda as approved by the Executive Council touches on the lives and careers of every member of CSEA:
2021 Legislative Agenda
- A fair budget that increases revenue through taxes on Connecticut’s wealthiest residents –
-A budget that properly funds public services and the jobs of CSEA members, from state employees to municipal and board of education workers to home-based family child care providers;
-A budget that reverses the trend of short staffing in state agencies, as well as municipalities and boards of education;
-A budget that protects and properly funds retirement benefits earned by CSEA members;
-A budget that increases funding for vital services provided by CSEA members, like the educational programs in our state’s prisons; and
-A budget that rejects privatization schemes, funds the State Contracting Standards Board, and moves personal service agreements from the operating expenses budget line to the personnel line to more accurately reflect the cost and number of outside consultants;
- Pass State Employee Contracts. All state employee collective bargaining agreements and binding arbitration awards must be approved by a vote of the House of Representatives and Senate. CSEA will work to ensure the successful passage of any collective bargaining agreements or binding arbitration awards that are submitted to the General Assembly for approval;
- Paraeducator compensation improvement and career development. Paraeducators are an essential part of the education system, but for too long they have not been treated that way. CSEA will join forces with other union locals in Connecticut that represent paras, to pass legislation that starts the process of dramatically improving the pay, benefits, training, professional development, career opportunities, and working conditions of paras;
- Public option for health care. CSEA will join with allies in the General Assembly and Comptroller Kevin Lembo, along with other labor unions and community organizations to guarantee every person in Connecticut has equitable access to affordable, quality health care through a public option;
- Require all DOT inspections be done by state employees. By insourcing work currently done by private contractors and consultants, Connecticut can save hundreds of millions of dollars every year. Not only will insourcing save money, but it is also a matter of public safety. Do you want to drive over a bridge built by a low bid contractor that was inspected by a no bid contractor? We should not let the fox guard the hen house;
- Collective bargaining rights for probate court workers. It is remarkable that there are workers in Connecticut who do not have the right to form a union and exercise their collective bargaining rights. Unfortunately, that is the case for the people who work in Connecticut’s probate courts. CSEA will work to pass legislation that gives these workers the rights they deserve;
- Workers’ Comp presumption for COVID-19. CSEA will work with our brothers and sisters in other SEIU locals and the Connecticut AFL-CIO to enhance and expand Governor Lamont’s Executive Order that created a limited workers’ comp presumption for workers who contracted COVID-19 on the job; and
- Early voting and no excuse vote by mail. Allowing voters to vote early or by mail without an excuse is something Connecticut should have done long ago. CSEA will work with allies to change existing voting laws that hinder the ability of residents to cast votes easily, early, and safely.
The 2021 session will not look like anything we have seen before. For starters, most of it will be virtual. The session is scheduled to run from January 6 through June 9, but don’t expect to be heading to the LOB or State Capitol in Hartford anytime soon; things like committee meetings and public hearings will be conducted virtually, probably through Zoom. To make up for the lack of in person contact with legislators, we need to make sure they are hearing from us through other channels like phone calls, emails, and social media posts.
While every item on our agenda is important, we all recognize that the real battle will be about the budget. During next year’s session, the main work of the General Assembly will be on Connecticut’s next biennial budget. No matter where you work or even if you are retired, if you are a member of CSEA, the state budget is central to your work, your pay, and your benefits. Together, we can shape a budget and a legislative session that produces wins for our members and moves our local and our state in the right direction.