On January 27, 2016, the University of Connecticut Board of Trustees voted to approve a new Collective Bargaining Agreement between the University of Connecticut and the University of Connecticut Professional Employees Association (UCPEA), the non-teaching professional staff at UConn.
No member of the UConn Board of Trustees voted against the contract. All voted yes, but one of the two alumni representatives, who abstained.
Over the past week, ratification of the contract by the Connecticut General Assembly has become controversial and Governor Dannel Malloy has suddenly become critical of the agreement despite the fact that, by law, Malloy is the President of the UConn Board of Trustees, Malloy appoints the majority of the members of the Board and Malloy own personal representative on the Board has missed 12 of the last 15 monthly meetings, including the Trustee meeting in January when the contract was approved.
As the debate groups, a headline in the Hartford Courant reads, “GOP Leaders Call for Vote Soon on Controversial UConn Contract.” The Courant reports;
Len Fasano and House Republican leader Themis Klarides are calling for the full legislature to vote on a controversial contract for nearly 2,000 non-teaching employees at the University of Connecticut.
The contract will automatically go into effect if the legislature takes no action by March 9. But Fasano, other Republicans, and some Democrats say that a vote is needed on the multi-million-dollar contract to set the tone for future union awards. The contract calls for a 3 percent raise in the first year and then 4.5 percent increases for four consecutive years – including an increase in the workweek from 35 hours to 40 hours.
Last week, the CT Mirror article entitled, Malloy: UConn pay raises don’t reflect new economic reality, explained that Governor Dannel Malloy was critical of the new state employee contract with non-teaching professional staff at the University of Connecticut claiming that it was out of step with current economic conditions.
Speaking at press conference, Malloy said;
“That contract does not fully represent the new economic reality, and I have some concerns about it, but the legislature is in charge on this one. I think there is an economic reality that people are having a hard time adjusting to.”
The pending contract for the 1,839 members of the University of Connecticut Professional Employees Association provides for annual raises ranging from 3 to 4.5 percent over the next five years.
“I don’t play a role in it, but I will answer questions about the evaluation of it. I think I am going pretty far by saying that if it’s approved, if it becomes the contract, it will be a contract made in this year that will make all other contracts much more difficult to enter into, or to negotiate. It has implications… It’s going to make the legislature’s job a lot harder if they intend to balance the budget.”
Malloy said, “The legislature is in charge on this one.”
And added, “I don’t play a role in it, but I will answer questions about the evaluation of it.”
Is Governor Malloy that naïve or does he really think we are that stupid?
As noted, according to Connecticut State Law, the governor serves as the President of the UConn Board of Trustees.
Malloy appointed 12 of the 21 regular members of the UConn Board AND his Commissioner of Agriculture, Commissioner of Education and Commissioner of Economic and Community Development are all members of the UConn Board due to the positions they hold in the Malloy administration.
Malloy also appoints a personal representative to the board to attend in his absence.
In the parlance of politics, the governor control the votes.
The truth is that all of Governor Malloy’s appointees to the UConn Board voted in favor of the proposed state employee contract including Board Chairman Larry McHugh, former Speaker of the House Tom Ritter and West Hartford Deputy Mayor Shari Cantor.
To even suggest that he had no role in the decision to approve the contract can only mean that he intentionally overlooked the important role he plays on the UConn Board of Trustees or he has decided to lie to the voters of Connecticut.
Meanwhile, the debate continues about whether the State Senate and State House of Representatives will hold a vote on the contract. According to the latest Courant story,
The House Democrats talked about the UConn contract during their closed-door caucus last week at the Jackson Laboratory in Farmington, but no final decisions have been announced on whether there will be a vote by the full legislature.
House Speaker Brendan Sharkey of Hamden, who will play a key role in whether there is a formal vote, is concerned about the price of the contract for the UConn Professional Employees Association, known as UCPEA.
“Everyone understands the overall budget challenges we face, and I heard from legislators, both on the committee and not, who expressed understandable concerns, which I share, over the price tag of this contract,” Sharkey said. “Through no fault of UCPEA, it is apparent that UConn negotiated this without consideration of the economic reality of the state, and their CFO couldn’t say how they are going to pay for it. The truth is it has to either come from taxpayers, more tuition hikes, or layoffs, and that concerns me greatly.”
A longtime political insider said the UConn contract is probably the most important union vote, politically, at the Capitol in the past 10 years.
Republicans say the legislature’s budget-writing committee missed a chance last week to set the fiscal tone by failing to block the contract for professional employees. House members on the committee voted in favor of the contract, which some legislators described as unaffordable and others said should be approved because it was bargained in good faith and approved by the university.
While the House members approved the contract, the Senate members battled to a 6-6 tie as they debated over whether the full legislature should approve the contract.
Sen. Beth Bye, a West Hartford Democrat who co-chairs the committee, voted in favor of the deal because she said that turning it down could eventually cost the state even more money.
Sen. John Kissel, a longtime lawmaker from Enfield who voted against the contract, said in an interview that the contract could eventually boomerrang on the employees.
“They’re setting themselves up for layoffs,” Kissel told Capitol Watch. “I think it sets a bad standard because we have 15 others coming up. The other unions would look to that and say there’s precedent.”
Setting aside the arguments for and against this particular contract, the most amazing news of all is Malloy’s attempt to revise the reality surrounding his role in the contract and the fact that legislators are apparently going to allow him to get away with the charade.