State workers rally for ‘hero pay’, telecommuting; Gov. Lamont says ‘we’re talking’

Hartford

HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH) — Union leaders representing state employees gathered at the state Capitol Tuesday afternoon. The group is currently in the middle of contract negotiations.

The union – a 200-state employee bargaining agent coalition known as the State Employees Bargaining Agent Coalition (SEBAC) – workers rallied at the State Capitol Tuesday. The union coalition represents 46,000 workers everyone from university professors to the cook in the kitchen at Connecticut Valley Hospital and law enforcement workers.

The group held a media conference at the Capitol to sound off in what it is calling a fight for fair contracts.

Chanting “Hero’s don’t accept zero’s!” referring to no raises for front-line workers.

There are 15 bargaining units involved in this protest. All of their contracts are up for negotiation after they expired last month. Employees are asking the governor for fair contracts. Including adequate staffing, hero pay, raises, and racial equity.

Rob Barile, the President of SEIU 1199 New England, said when COVID-19 hit workers showed up and some even died in the line of duty. “The workforce that has protected us and kept us safe. This is the state’s safety net.”

At a separate event on Tuesday, Governor Lamont told reporters, “It’s a negotiation so let us have that negotiation, but I think you see where our heart is on this.”

Another issue being protested through legal channels. Who should be able to work from home remotely?

The union is currently suing the administration for allegedly violating a telework agreement when it called workers back into the office this month, with telework limited to no more than 50 percent of the time. The union is touting environmental concerns.

The Lamont Administration must do everything in its power to address the existential crisis our state, our country and our world is facing with climate change. We already know that telework had a huge impact on our state’s reduction in carbon emissions and we must continue to reap these benefits wherever we can.   Our is and should continue to be a model employer in that regard, and the Administration cannot ignore the clear environmental benefits of telework while publicly committing to doing everything in its power to address climate change at the state level.”

State Employees Bargaining Agent Coalition (SEBAC)

Shannon Smith a worker for the State Disability Social Security office says working from home has been good for her and it’s created efficiency. “We need to look at the impact that telework has made. Not only is it environmentally impacting our state but it cuts down the cost to lessen the gap in the deficit that we have from having huge buildings to not having all the state workers in.”

Governor Lamont says it’s time for state workers to come back to work and managers need to have discretion over their agencies. “We’re talking every day. You don’t have to run to the courthouse and bring a lawsuit.”

A 2018 U-S Supreme Court ruling concerning unions is at the heart of this battle. Unions are fighting to stay in existence as workers no longer are required to pay for representation.

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