President Pro Tem of the State Senate Don Williams said he was “strongly against” a move by Governor Jodi Rell to overturn an arbiter’s award to unionized prison guards that would provide them with a 3% wage increase. The increase for some workers could mount to 6.5% owing to annual increments and lump sum payments.
Williams believes union concessions may be needed in the future to close an expected budget deficit of $6 billion. Apparently, asking for contractual givebacks, according to Williams, would make the unions less amenable to concessions as Connecticut’s economy continues to tank.
William’s counterpart in the House, Speaker Chris Donovan, who has long labored in union vineyards, refused to say whether the House would debate the issue. “The unions didn’t create the problem,” Donovan told a reporter.
Maybe yes, maybe no. Donovan’s assertion is debatable. Deficits are caused by overspending, and in this regard Donovan is more responsible for them than the unions. What the Speaker is not saying is that unions, in part, may hold the cards for fixing the problem caused by Donovan and other free spenders in the legislature.
Is the Speaker really saying that he would not be willing to debate the issue because unions did not cause the deficit, even though everyone knows that the problem can only be solved if unions are willing to make concessions? That seems to be the guiding perception of William’s comment. Williams is afraid that contractual givebacks with jeopardize and future necessary concessions.
Why is Donovan unwilling to debate the issue in the legislature? And if a) it is inappropriate to ask unions to make concessions to ameliorate a situation for which they are not responsible, and b) unions are never responsible for state deficits, then it would never, at any point, be proper to ask unions to make concessions.
That is an argument perfectly proper for a union steward to make, even the truth of the statement were open to debate.
But Speaker Donovan is no longer a union representative – or is he?