Union ad casts GOP leaders as ‘protectors of billionaires’

The state’s largest healthcare workers’ union took some jabs Thursday at the top Republicans in the legislature, charging them in a new ad with shielding the rich while unionized workers offer huge concessions.

Crafted as a mock film trailer titled “Connecticut: The Movie,” the 30-second spot by SEIU 1199 New England aired on television and online, also challenged state officials in general to raise taxes on the wealthy to complement the givebacks unions ratified this week.

Depiction of “the wealthy and powerful” in the union ad.

“In a state where some legislators side with corporate lobbyists to protect billionaires and corporations while attacking middle-class workers,” House Minority Leader Themis Klarides, R-Derby, and Senate Republican leader Len Fasano of North Haven are “the protectors of billionaires,” a narrator states as ominous music plays.

The GOP leaders have argued throughout the legislative session against tax hikes. But when it comes to proposing tax increases on wealthy households and major corporations, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and many of his fellow Democrats in the House and Senate have joined Republicans in opposition.

When state employee unions announced Tuesday morning their members overwhelmingly had ratified a concessions plan worth $1.57 billion over the next two years, union leaders repeatedly called upon legislators and the governor to change their position on taxing the wealthy.

While showing a clip of applauding union workers, the ad continues that “heroes will rise to rebuild the middle class and have the courage to stand up to the wealthy and powerful and tell them it’s time to start paying their fair share.”

But the spot then abruptly shifted to an empty podium and microphone.

“Where are they?” the narrator asks. “They’re supposed to be here. ‘Connecticut: The Movie,’ now casting for heroes.”

Jennifer Schneider, spokeswoman for SEIU 1199, New England, said, “Themis Klarides and Len Fasano have clearly defined themselves as the protectors of billionaires and corporations.  Their budget solutions revolve around pain for working-class people.”

“This is an attempt by state employee union leaders to deflect from the truth,” Fasano said. “Right now in Connecticut, in order to pay for the state employee concessions deal negotiated by the governor, Democrats have balanced their budget on the backs of the middle class and working poor. Democrats have proposed dramatic sales tax increases and deep cuts to social services all to protect state benefits that far exceed what even municipal union employees such as teachers receive today.”

Fasano added that, “Everyone knows the state cannot afford to raise the income tax and drive even more people out of our state.”

“What they don’t understand is they are pitting the middle class against the middle class,” Klarides said. “And that shows you how out of touch they are about this fiscal crisis we are in.”

When asked Thursday by Capitol reporters whether he was sympathetic with the unions’ argument on taxes, Malloy replied, “Not particularly, no.”

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