State unions step up their pushback on givebacks

Facing increased pressure at the state Capitol for givebacks from state employees, their unions are stepping up their pushback.

On Tuesday, public safety workers will rally outside the building while state legislators convene to close a mid-year budget shortfall. On April 4, a coalition of members from various state employee unions and faith and community organizations also plan to mobilize in Hartford for an event.

And this weekend, one of the state’s largest unions is putting the voices of their members on TV during the popular NCAA Sweet 16 basketball games.

“They make sure our water is safe. They provide crucial mental health services. They treat our veterans when they return home. They care for our most vulnerable citizens. And they all work for the State of Connecticut,” the 30-second commercial paid for by SEIU-1199. “We are a state that works for all of us.”

Facing a glaring $900 million budget deficit and unwilling to raise taxes, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and Republican and Democratic leaders have called for givebacks from state employees.

The Democratic governor has said he anticipates shrinking the state workforce as an essential element of sustainable future budgets, but that labor agreements could affect the number of layoffs.

“The rally will drive home the point that the threat of mass layoffs and cuts to vital public services will make Connecticut a more dangerous and less law-abiding state. We are the individuals who protect Connecticut citizens,” said Charles Della Rocco, president of AFSCME Local 749, in an announcement of Tuesday’s rally.

Jennifer Schneider, a spokeswoman for SEIU 1199, said during an interview that legislators should expect to see the television ad campaign for quite a while. She would not disclose how much the union has spent to date on the new commercial and a previous one this legislative session.

“It really seems Gov. Malloy is out of step with Democrats across the country,” said Schneider of his threat to cut jobs and mental health services. “A lot of the rhetoric at the Capitol about the services that these people provide gets lost. We’re making an investment to make sure the public is aware of the services we provide. We’re going to have a long-term campaign.”

A spokesman for the governor declined Friday to comment.