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CT Gov. Dan Malloy paves way for collective bargaining for care workers

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September 23, 2011

By David Godow

After a messy, highly public spat with unions over state worker compensation, Connecticut Governor Dan Malloy may soon wind up back in organized labor's good graces. Malloy, who received significant union support during his narrow win over Republican Tom Foley in the Connecticut gubernatorial election, 2010, issued an executive order on Wednesday beginning "informal conversations" over the unionization of day-care providers and personal-care attendants.[1]

Malloy's orders will kick-start the unionization process after he failed to convince the Democrat-dominated Connecticut Legislature to support the move through legislation. According to Senator Joe Markley (R-Southington), a unionization bill failed to win support due to the strong opposition of both clients and caregivers. Markley harshly criticized Malloy's orders, accusing the governor of "implement[ing] a policy the legislature wouldn't pass" in order to "placate the unions."[2] A Malloy representative had a simple response: "we disagree."[2]

The move to unionize day-care and personal-care attendants, described by Malloy as "often-times the hardest-working and lowest-paid workers in our job force," comes on the heels of Malloy's bitter fight with the state's public employee unions over cuts in benefits for state workers. As part of his plan to balance Connecticut's 2012-2013 budget, Malloy demanded $1.6 billion in savings from state worker compensation, forcing unions to accept a pay freeze, higher contributions to health care plans, and cuts in pension benefits. After extended wrangling, unions finally swallowed the cuts in August. Despite a show of reconciliation between the governor and union leaders, it was unclear whether their alliance would remain intact.

Republicans like Senator Markley have sought to brand Malloy's new executive orders as a sop to unions in the wake of the state employee compensation fight. Even if they are right, it is uncertain whether the "sop" will be successful; the orders may face a court challenge, especially given the failure of unionization supporters to win the day in the state legislature.

See also