House Approves Bill Allowing Low-Income Workers To Unionize

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The state House of Representatives voted Friday night in favor of plans to allow two groups of low-income workers to join unions.

The clash was among the longest debates of the year in the House, where members went into the night on Friday in a sharp clash between Democrats against Republicans.

The legislature has battled over the unionization of day-care providers and personal-care attendants in the past, but Democrats have never been able to turn the bill into law. The difference this time is that Gov. Dannel P. Malloy signed two executive orders in September 2011 that helped pave the way for the unionization of the workers.

On Friday night, lawmakers debated over a 16-page, 449-line bill that they said would essentially codify the two executive orders into law.

The child-care providers already voted to join the union in December by a vote of 1,603 to 88. The personal-care attendants also voted by 1,228 to 365 to join a union.

\”This bill benefits both workers and consumers,\’\’ said state Rep. Zeke Zalaski, a pro-labor factory worker in Bristol who co-chairs the legislature\’s labor committee. \”Collective bargaining will help stabilize these industries. This could make these jobs a career.\’\’

House Republican leader Larry Cafero said he thought that the debate could have started at 12 noon and lasted for six hours. Instead, after caucuses, the debate did not start until 4:57 p.m.

\”Glad we\’re starting early today,\’\’ Zalaski told his colleagues sarcastically as the debate finally began. \”It should be a great day.\’\’

State Rep. Gail Hamm, a Democrat, said she has learned in her career that the workers have relatively limited options to seek a solution.

\”You\’ve got three choices: lobbyist, litigation or labor,\’\’ Hamm said on the House floor.

For months, Republicans have blasted Malloy on the issue. Pushing the matter to a head, two Republican state legislators filed a lawsuit in March against Malloy, challenging his executive order. Sen. Joseph Markley of Southington and Rep. Rob Sampson of Wolcott filed the lawsuit with the conservative Yankee Institute of Public Policy to prevent the controversial unionization.

The lawsuit says that the legislature – not the governor – should have the right to decide the issue. The suit charges that the executive orders violate labor laws at the state and federal level, as well as the state and federal Constitutions. Malloy\’s signing of the executive order \”is an unconstitutional usurpation of the legislature\’s constitutional right to create law and as such is a violation of the separation of powers of the Connecticut Constitution,\’\’ the lawsuit states.

In speaking with reporters, Malloy has repeatedly defended his actions.

\”We\’re not requiring anyone to be unionized,\’\’ Malloy told reporters last month. \”We\’re requiring that they have the right to unionize if that\’s what they choose.\’\’

After more than 90 minutes of debate, state Rep. Arthur O\’Neill made a motion to refer the bill to the legislature\’s judiciary committee. That motion immediately stopped the debate as lawyers tried to determine the parliamentary procedure. On a voice vote, O\’Neill\’s motion was defeated at 6:45 p.m. Friday.

The Courant\’s Daniela Altimari reports:

Zalaski said the bill will provide stability and encourage more people to work in those fields.
\”In many cases, personal care attendants are underpaid, work limited hours and have no access to healthcare benefits,\’\’ Zalaski said when he brought out the bill just before 5 p.m. \”Giving them the ability to collectively bargain allows peace of mind to the consumer and their families.\”
The bill covers child care workers who are paid through the state\’s Care 4 Kids program and personal care assistants, who provide help to seniors and people with disabilities and are paid by the state.
Given that the state is funding those wages, Cafero asked why the state couldn\’t simply raise those wages.
\”If we believe we have a problem in the state of Connecticut that the child care providers and the personal care assistants of this state are underpaid, and we\’re the ones that pay them, let\’s give them a raise!\’\’ he bellowed. \”What do we got to do this for?\”
Opponents of the measure say allowing child care workers to unionize could drive up costs. Critics of the provision allowing personal care assistants to unionize say it could create more paperwork and add a level of mistrust to the intimate relationship between the aide and the person receiving the care.

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5 thoughts on “House Approves Bill Allowing Low-Income Workers To Unionize

  1. Jimbo

    Keep voting liberals into office and this is the kind of crap we get. Unionization of people against their will, death penalty repeal, medical marijuana, paid sick leave, bus to nowhere, $1M/job corporate welfare, $1.5B tax increase, bathrooms for transgendered….. The list goes on and on.

    Connecticut has begun its death spiral. Thanks liberals!

  2. michelle

    I am a home daycare provider, directly affected by this legislation. I do not want, nor do I need a union. I am a small business owner. I set the rates of pay at my home daycare. Some unintelligent providers choose to accept whatever small amount Care for Kids chooses to pay for a child. Smart providers do not. Smart providers set a rate for childcare, and the parents are required to pay the difference between what C4K pays and the actual rate. Providers can make more than $40,000 a year, before expenses and taxes, and as a provider, a % of home expenses can be deducted, such as mortgage, electrical bills, and grocery bills. Home daycare, when done as a business, can be a fulfilling and rewarding career, with plently of money to be made. As a side note, do you really want a person to care for your children who cannot do simple math to make sure their income is more than their expenses?

  3. Matt from CT

    You know, given Malloy’s War On Teachers…it reminds me of the tale in Zinn’s People’s History of United States about Cleveland’s AG telling the railroads not to fight the Interstate Commerce Commission, but instead to co-opt it for their own benefit. Paraphrasing, “By having the ICC it will placate calls for regulation and keep the people happy, and you just use the ICC to your own benefit with strong enforcement of rules that benefit you and make those rules that would hurt you toothless tigers.”

    In this case, Malloy is clearly against strong Union power — whether it’s taking on the teachers, State Police, etc.

    But he sure does like their dues going to fund the Democratic party.

    So how is this going to benefit the workers he’s extending unionization to?

    It sure seems when viewed in the totality of the Malloy administration’s relation with labor that he’s just looking to get more campaign contributions from them but he won’t actually make any concessions that would turn this, in the words of one supporter, from a job to a career.

    In other words, organizing them is just a convenient excuse to say look, you’re in a union … so now shut up and quit complaining.

  4. Ruby Zahedi

    We need to remove Malloy from Governor. We are a LIBERAL state, which means OPEN-MINDED to choose what should be done within our state, not have a tyrant in place who signs at the expense of the people! These executive orders will CLOSE down sole proprietorships and whereby leaving people jobless. Is that what he wants? An unemployment rate higher than other states? The unions are an outdated practice, originially put in place to keep people safe, now that we have laws that prevent people from unsafe conditions–they are an archaic form of organizations who’s only benefit is for themselves and not the people within the union. When was the last time you saw a union pay the employees who picketed to save their jobs? NEVER! They only do what is good for themselves and never think twice about trying to save jobs. Go to Ohio, Michigan, or even George where the automotive industries had to outsource jobs because they couldn’t afford to keep the employees due to the unions demanding more. Unions have become greedy and they do not realize their place in the global world anymore, maybe it’s time they restructure themselves to be more affordable and less greedy? Back to CT and these 2 orders–Malloy like the unions has become greedy, whoever pays him the most money for his campaign gets his vote!

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