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Keeping the Commitment to “Win-Win” Solutions

“Let’s be crystal clear; our coalition’s leaders have not been — nor will we be — interested in further concessions from state employees,” said AFT Connecticut President Jan Hochadel (in photo above, speaking at our legislative conference in February). “We already have an agreement that we reached in 2017 and is saving state taxpayers $25 billion over the next 20 years. Sen. Fasano’s political gamesmanship can’t erase that fact,” added Hochadel, who previously taught in the state’s technical high school system.
Hochadel’s comments refer to public statements by the Senate minority leader, who attempted to drag union members into a “debate” over a budget agreement between Democratic lawmakers and the governor. Leaders of the State Employee Bargaining Agent Coalition (SEBAC) immediately responded, refuting the notion that labor savings in the fiscal package were in any way considered concessions.
Budget legislation was on June 5 passed over Republican opposition; yet Sen. Fasano has continued to make misleading statements. 
Click here for press reporting on the budget conflict that includes coalition reaction to Republican lawmakers’ concessions claims.
“Talks with the administration have been about gains, not losses,” said Ed Leavy, who is wrapping up his final term as our state federation’s secretary-treasurer. “For example, stabilizing funding for teachers and state employees’ defined benefit pension plans are a good example of a ‘win-win.’ In other words, strengthening members’ retirement security while stabilizing public assets that fuel the economy,” said Leavy, who also serves as president of our affiliated State Vocational Federation of Teachers.
Leavy’s comments refer to plans to “smooth out” future payments to teacher and state employee pensions’ unfunded liabilities, which were created by the negligence of previous generations of politicians. A proposal to strengthen the Teacher Retirement System (TRS) that promises to save over $900 million over the next five years was adopted before lawmakers adjourned the 2019 session of the General Assembly on June 5. 
SEBAC leaders are currently discussing a plan to reamortize funding for Connecticut’s State Employee Retirement System (SERS) based on a similar agreement with the former administration reached three years ago. The plan would simply further those efforts to adjust the schedule for paying past pension debts and make no changes to retirement benefits for current or future union members.
Click here for our report on the 2016 agreement leaders reached to address SERS’ unfunded liability.
“Collective bargaining isn’t just for winning higher pay, better benefits and improved working conditions,” said John Disette, an AFT Connecticut vice president. “It’s also how we speak up for the people who depend on the services we provide. The Comptroller’s recent pharmacy agreement — which SEBAC supported — is a great example of a ‘win-win.’ It strengthens members’ healthcare and saves taxpayers money,” added Disette, the president of our affiliated Administrative & Residual (A&R) Employees Union.
Disette’s comments refer to a first-of-a-kind pharmacy benefit manager (PBM) contract State Comptroller Kevin Lembo agreed to last week with CVS Caremark. The compact promises to provide greater drug pricing transparency for over 200,000 active and retired public employees in the state while reducing prescription costs by as much as 10 percent. 
SEBAC leaders on the joint Healthcare Cost Containment Committee (HCCC) throughout the process played a key role in protecting members’ benefits and advocating for the public good. 
Click here for press reporting on the landmark agreement reached with CVS Caremark.
Public sector union leaders will continue working with the Lamont Administration on these and additional “win-win” solutions for achieving efficiencies that benefit everyone.  Lawmakers would be wise to applaud, rather than demean or mischaracterize, such efforts or risk further alienating hard-working teachers, nurses, firefighters and so many other dedicated public employees. 
Click here for our previous report on public sector union leaders’ efforts to achieve efficiencies and protect pensions.

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