Throughout the past year and a half, CSEA members have partnered with the 14 other unions that comprise SEBAC to raise their collective voice to demand fair and honorable contracts that not only respect the work that they do but protect the critical public services that they provide.
After rallies, email and call campaigns, meeting with legislators, speaking with the press, CSEA members finally have a contract. Each bargaining unit contract includes $3,500 in one-time payments, solid general wage increases (GWI) and steps in all three negotiated years, plus retropayment. Without members raising their voices, standing together, and refusing to settle for less than what they deserve, this deal would not have been possible.
A LOOK BACK AT HISTORY
The 2017 SEBAC agreement ended on June 30, 2021, meaning that state workers have been working without a contract for almost an entire year. In addition, since this was the first set of contract negotiations in many years that wasn’t happening in the middle of a state budget crisis, CSEA?
bargaining teams knew that they had to press for contracts that capitalized on the moment and made up for sacrifices made over the last decades.
In fact, in the past 12 years, state workers sacrificed six years of wage freezes and produced over $1.6 billion in savings for fiscal years 2018 and 2019 to help the state out when Connecticut was in tough economic times. State workers are proud residents of Connecticut and when the state needed them to step up and take sacrifices for the betterment of our state, they have done so.
Negotiation teams started at the local table back in January of 2021, but after months of lackluster progress, it was clear that a new approach was needed. Thankfully, CSEA, which represents seven bargaining units and approximately 3,500 state workers pressed for a “strength-in-numbers” approach through SEBAC which represents 35 bargaining units and 43,000 state workers.
In July of 2021, SEBAC members came together for a massive rally at the State Capitol with over 500 members waving union flags and holding signs calling on the Lamont Administration to offer fair and honorable contracts. This event catapulted SEBAC into successfully approaching the Lamont Administration with a request for coalition bargaining for a general wage pattern which would be granted to each of the 35 individual bargaining units, with the
understanding that further negotiations were necessary at each table to address bargaining unit-level concerns.
Once the wage pattern was established ($2,500 lump sum
one-time payment and a 2.5% GWI plus a step for contract year (CY) ‘21-’22; $1,000 lump sum one-time payment and a 2.5% GWI plus a step for CY ‘22-’23; a 2.5% GWI plus a step for CY ‘23-’24 and a wage and step re-opener in CY ‘24-’25), it was time for the bargaining unit negotiation teams to gather and begin working on finishing the contract.
Negotiation teams worked tirelessly with long meetings, late nights, missed holidays and weekends, but in the end secured strong contracts that addressed the concerns and needs of all CSEA members.
Once negotiations were finished, the ratification process began. After a series of informational meetings with members, an electronic voting day and two in-person voting days, all seven CSEA bargaining units ratified their contracts with no less than 96% of members in favor.
Upon successful ratification of all 35 bargaining units in SEBAC, the contract was sent to the
General Assembly for approval.
UNDER THE GOLD DOME
The first step in Legislative Approval was a public hearing in the Appropriations Committee were members of the public were welcomed to testify in support or opposition of the contract. This hearing went on for several hours where we heard from opponents like the Yankee Institute who sent out shameful flyers referring to state workers as blood-sucking parasites. Our very own P-4 member, Srinivas Banda, an Information Technology Subject Matter Expert (IT SME), testified during this hearing to push back against the misinformation being spread by our opponents and to remind legislators of the critical public services state workers provide.
“Without proper staffing, I’ve already seen my co-workers’ and my workload increase, meaning that the critical work we perform to keep Connecticut’s IT infrastructure secure and efficient is at threat. We need these contracts to help recruit and retain the talented and knowledgeable workers that can perform this work,” said Banda.
The contract passed out of the Appropriations Committee with a vote of 9-3 on the Senate side and 25-11 on the House side, a party-line vote.
A few days later, the contract was debated on the House floor which culminated in a bipartisan approval with 96 Representatives voting “Yes” and 52 Representatives voting “No”.
The very next day, the Senate debated the contract. Senator Cathy Osten who is both the Appropriations Co-Chair and former CSEA?President, led the charge for approval. The Senate approved the contract on a straight party-line vote with all Democrats voting in favor and all Republicans voting against.
The fight for this contract reminds us of the keys to victory:
1. Lifting up members to tell their stories is paramount to garnering positive press and cutting through the opposition’s misinformation campaigns.
2. Members in action is the only way to push forward throughout the process - whether you served on a negotiating team, attended a rally, testified in public hearings, emailed or called your legislators, showed up to press conferences, were interviewed by the media, or sent in letters to the editors - your action mattered.
3. Legislators hold our futures in their hands throughout the legislative session, we hold theirs during election season. We will remember who voted “no” and who voted “yes” on these contracts.
We still have a big fight on our hands. We must pass HB5441 and SB 473 to secure our staffing and recruitment language, our racial justice demands and critical funding for the State Contracting Standards Board.
These bills are critical to ensuring that the public services state workers provide are properly staffed by requiring automatic refilling of vacancies and continuous recruitment of positions. It will also take meaningful steps towards racial equity inside state government by creating a zero tolerance policy, a career development fund and an ombudsperson for racial justice. Finally the State Contracting Standards Board bill will ensure ethical procurement practices are followed for contracting out of services.
Stay tuned for emails asking you to once again raise your voice to push these priorities through the General Assembly.