State employee labor unions are pushing for contracted raises, Gov. Lamont pushes back


HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH) — The coronavirus pandemic has left the state with a huge budget deficit. That has Governor Ned Lamont asking state labor unions to defer their upcoming raises. At least one labor union is responding by saying its members have been risking their lives and deserve their raises.

SEIU Local 1199 created a video ad titled “You Don’t Have to Call Me a Hero,” and the idea is to let people know the sacrifices workers have made over the past three months.

“Three fellow co-workers contracted it and passed away, and I’ve had family members pass away,” said union member Lenese Robinson on a conference call about the ad campaign.

Workers are speaking out because Governor Lamont is asking state employees to defer a 3-5% pay raise scheduled for the end of this month.

“I would put it off and I think we should put it off. I think we are in an economy where you have got close to 20% unemployment,” Lamont said at a press conference Tuesday. “I think you’re in an economy where you see a lot of people on furlough.”

The state is facing a $600 million deficit because of the pandemic. Deferring raises would save around $150 million. The union says the state’s rainy day fund is the answer. It is around $2.5 billion. The other idea is, tax the state’s millionaires and billionaires.

“You know, have the rich pay their fair share instead of asking us to give back again,” said Developmental Services Worker Tanisha Smith.

Union contracts make up the bulk of the state’s expenses, and the state is calling for sarifices from everyone. Local 1199 president Rob Baril says those risking their lives have done enough.

“So when we talk about state workers sacrificing, I think it’s pretty clear they’ve made those sacrifices with their bodies,” Baril said.

Two and a half-billion dollars in the rainy day fund may sound like a lot of money, but state budget experts warn that, unless some changes in spending are made, that could quickly disappear in the coming years.

To view the video on the SEIU District 1199 New England Facebook page, click here.

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