“They were curious, like when he said, ‘in good times and bad times,’ what does that mean? He didn’t say concessions,” Barr said.
“Maybe it’s PTSD from what happened in the past, but I think our members were just concerned,” Barr said, referring to post-traumatic stress disorder.
Barr and others persuaded the fearful ones that Lamont will stick with his promises to stick by unions — but will seek “win-win” changes that save the state money without hurting workers, like the 2011 preventive health requirements.
His expression is that labor will be at the table, not on the table. “He included us in the campaign, he included us in the transition, and now we’re going to be
part of his term as governor,” said Barr, a calm sort who’s not given to the bombastics of some labor leaders.
Both sides say they feel harmed by the budgets of the last decade. Former Gov. Dannel P. Malloy enacted two big tax increases, Republicans say, without extracting enough from labor. “The shared sacrifices were not in fact so shared,” O’Neil said.
The unions claim their six recent years of pay freezes, 3 percent across the board charges for health care for at least ten years, 2 percent floors for pension, higher co-pays and lower benefits for new employees all represent more than enough. “We are very very sensitive to our membership’s givebacks again and again and again,” Barr said.
Barr tells a story about leaders of the three rank-and-file corrections unions, totaling 5,000 members, upset that Lamont named Rollin Cook, a reformer from Utah, as commissioner — without
“We reached out to Ned with our concerns, and Ned did the right thing and called those local presidents and had a discussion with them about why he made the decision he made.”
Crisis averted — but now they get harder. Lamont’s budget proposal isn’t due until mid- to late-February. His office didn’t issue any statements clearing up the question, probably because Lamont and budget czar Melissa McCaw don’t know yet.
My guess is he’ll be able to avert a standoff this year using measures besides calling the unions back to reopen the 2017-27 deal, such as tapping part of the rainy day fund.
If the economy doesn’t cooperate in 2020, all bets are off — on both sides. That may be unfair but it could be necessary.