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Labor offers harsh critique of CEO-led commission's report

BY Matt Pilon

3/21/2018
Steve Laschever
Steve Laschever
Former CEOs Bob Patricelli (right) and Jim Smith co-chaired the Commission on Fiscal Stability and Economic Growth, which has has received harsh criticism from labor leaders.
A group of Connecticut labor leaders on Tuesday released a 15-page analysis lambasting the recent recommendations of the Commission on Fiscal Stability and Economic Growth.

The report, released ahead of a multi-committee hearing on the commission's findings scheduled for Friday, compares the commission's executive-heavy membership to arrogant college freshmen who come home after a semester and think they have all the answers to the world's problems.

"The Commission's report is multi-colored and slick -- looking like a stock prospectus for a 'can't lose purchase opportunity,' " the analysis says.

Labor leaders assigned a "C-" grade to the commission's findings about the state's economic and fiscal situation and an "F" to its list recommendations.

Though union leaders agree with the commission on raising the state's minimum wage and implementing highway tolls, they've bristled in particular at the commission's calls to change union bargaining, including a recommendation to remove fringe benefits from the collective bargaining process between state government and unions.

Unions think the commission overstepped its legislative charge by delving into labor benefit issues.

They argue that Connecticut cannot be compared to surrounding states that do not bargain fringe benefits, such as New York and Massachusetts, because those states have constitutional or court precedent protections that protect employees from unilateral changes by state government.

"The Commission would leave state employee retirement benefits up to unilateral employer whim. An employee could work 35 years for the state, accepting that a substantial part of his or her promised compensation is a decent retirement when he or she is too old to continue working, and have that promise revoked a day before retirement," the analysis states.

The analysis is also critical of the commission's labeling of the teacher retirement system as unsustainable, arguing that the state has failed to fully fund the pension system, while teachers have paid their share.

Commission co-chairs Robert Patricelli and James Smith released a statement Wednesday on the labor analysis:

"We are disappointed public sector labor leaders are taking this aggressively negative position. The Commission report has received endorsements and constructive response from a wide range of people and organizations in Connecticut including the CT Conference of Municipalities, the CT Realtors Association, the CT Construction Industries Association, and Governor Malloy."

Labor leaders signing the analysis include Lori Pelletier, president of the Connecticut AFL-CIO; Sal Luciano, executive director of AFSCME Council 4; Jan Hochadel, president of AFT Connecticut; Thomas Bontly, president of UConn-AAUP; and Dan Livingston, chief negotiator of SEBAC.