Connecticut’s largest health care workers union took to the airwaves Thursday to protest ongoing state employee layoffs.
The commercial launched by SEIU, New England 1199 and airing on Connecticut stations and the internet, features a woman, identified as Jenny, who is living with cerebral palsy.
In the 30-second spot, Jenny, who “speaks” using a computer that reads her eye signals, makes a direct appeal to Gov. Dannel P. Malloy to restore her state-appointed speech pathologist, identified only as “Mallory.”
“My name is Jenny,” she says to open the ad. “I was born with cerebral palsy. This computer is the only way I can communicate. Mallory is the only worker employed by the state of Connecticut who knew how to customize this computer so my voice can be heard. On May 3, Mallory was laid off. Governor, please bring back Mallory and all of the laid-off state workers. We need them.”
Malloy and the legislature built big savings in salary accounts across most state agencies into the $19.76 billion budget adopted last May for the fiscal year that began July 1. Officials cut spending more than $800 million below the level needed to maintain current services to craft a plan that does not increase taxes.
More than 250 of the speech pathologists and communications therapists New England 1199 represents at the Department of Developmental Services have received layoff notices.
Many rallied against the layoffs outside the Capitol earlier this week.
“There is a tremendous human cost to these layoffs, and we ask that the governor bring back the laid off workers,” said SEIU 1199 spokesperson Jennifer Schneider. “People with disabilities rely on these workers to be able to communicate, by laying off these workers we have taken their voice away.”
Malloy told Capitol reporters on Wednesday that, “I don’t have an easy response to that (commercial) except that we have a new economic reality we are dealing with in the state.”
Connecticut is trying to make do with its smallest workforce “in several generations” the governor said, adding that, “I can assure you that, although some people want to see taxes raised, the vast majority don’t.”
That means the disabled who need services will receive them, the governor said, “but we have to do it within budgetary constraints.”
Schneider countered that “the speech department within DDS has been decimated” and that these “specifically trained workers” who were laid off can’t be replaced by remaining staff without that background.