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Urging Business Leaders to “Take the High Road” to Achieve Growth

Labor leaders (above) on February 9 testified as a panel to the board, which last fall was created to make legislative recommendations for balancing government budgets and boosting business competitiveness. Their presentation took place on the final day of public hearings before the commission — largely made up of current and former CEOs — is expected to release recommendations on March 1.
“Business and labor may be adversaries at the bargaining table, but we are not enemies,” Connecticut AFL-CIO President Lori Pelletier told the commission. “We all share a common interest in a strong economy with good jobs and high productivity. We want safe, stable and livable communities. The states that are leading in the growth of jobs with good pay and benefits are states that have strong unions in both the public and private sectors,” added Pelletier.
Pelletier’s comments referred to values that are fundamental to the concept of a “high road” economy, and which are consistent among all industries. In her testimony she urged the commission to recognize that fair compensation and respect for working people — in both sectors — are in labor and management’s shared interests.
Click here for reporting on Pelletier’s reaction to special interests claiming the commission would recommend ant-union legislation.
“Let’s take action based upon facts and information, not anecdotal evidence, propaganda, and political slogans,” said labor attorney and State Employee Bargaining Agent Coalition (SEBAC) Chief Negotiator Daniel Livingston. “For example, Connecticut’s current pension plans are moderate and well-funded. Our problem is the old pension debt, created before there was collective bargaining, by a General Assembly unfettered by the obligations of a contract. So reality matters when making recommendations,” Livingston told members of the commission.
Livingston’s comments referred to the importance of truth and reality in weighing public policy decisions and pushed back against previous testimony from special interests advocating continued attacks on collective bargaining. The Connecticut Business and Industry Association (CBIA) and the Connecticut Conference of Municipalities (CCM) previously have previously called for draconian roll-backs of union members’ rights in testimony before the commission.
Click here for press reporting on attempts by the state’s business and municipal lobbies to sway the commission.
Pelletier and Livingston were joined by Council 4 AFSCME Executive Director Salvatore Luciano, Connecticut Education Association (CEA) Executive Director Donald Williams on the panel. Together they mounted a strong defense of tens of thousands of union households — and a compelling argument for sustaining the vital services all state residents and businesses depend on.
Click here for analysis of the panel’s presentation to the commission.
“Connecticut public employees have repeatedly demonstrated that we’re willing to be part of the solution,” said Ed Leavy, a veteran English teacher at Bullard Havens Technical High School in Bridgeport. “We’re not willing to be scapegoats for low-road schemes that do nothing to help the vast majority of residents and will only make inequality worse. Other states that have gone down that road — like Kansas — are beginning to wake up to the damage,” added Leavy, who serves as AFT Connecticut’s secretary-treasurer.
Leavy’s comments refers to the record over the past nine years of Connecticut state, municipal and school employees repeatedly agreeing to significant labor cost savings to help close budget shortfalls. They have been produced at all levels through mutual negotiations and facilitated as a result of Connecticut’s public sector collective bargaining laws. In contrast, concessions have since 2011 been unilaterally extracted from working people in states where union rights were either already weak or since hobbled by anti-labor politicians.
Click here for analysis of Kansas lawmakers’ failed austerity policies.
“The commission should take the high road and make recommendations recognizing that, here in Connecticut, we are not Kansas,” said Shellye Davis, a paraeducator at Hartford’s Moylan Expeditionary Learning Academy. “A recent poll shows that our state’s voters prefer unions over corporations when it comes to economic proposals. That means more failed austerity policies would be a tough sell for lawmakers,” added Davis, who serves as our federation’s vice-president for Paraprofessionals and School-Related Personnel (PSRPs).
Davis’ comments refer to a poll released earlier this month by our sisters and brothers in the New England Health Care Employees Union, District 1199/SEIU. The results demonstrated deep fatigue with three years of painful cuts to vital services and wide support for renewed investments in Connecticut’s public health, safety and education. Significantly, the survey of likely voters found strong support — 57% — for legislators tapping new sources of revenue to restore and protect our state’s quality of life.
Click here for commentary on the significance of the poll’s findings.

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