Imagine a candidate so corrupted by special interests he can’t be trusted to negotiate any fair deal for the taxpayer. Imagine a party so beholden to one organization that it dares not deviate from its wishes. If you think this describes the Republican Party and big business, you’d be wrong. Rather, this is an essential feature of the Connecticut Democratic Party and its gubernatorial nominee, Ned Lamont. For decades, unholy marriage between organized labor and state Democrats wreaked havoc on Connecticut’s finances, abused hard-working taxpayers, and even failed to care for the very unionized employees they claim to fight for. Lamont and the rest of the Democratic ticket will only perpetuate this disaster and drive our state deeper into the dumpster.
Connecticut’s finances have long been a mess. The state government is constantly in debt and this has had ripple effects throughout the entire economy. In particular, taxes are raised to help pay for bloated government spending, but this has done little to decrease the deficit. Instead, it’s only encouraged politicians to spend more. Now, Connecticut is one of the most taxed states in the country and people are leaving in droves.
At the heart of Connecticut’s spending problem are the unsustainable salaries and benefits given to state employees, 94 percent of which are unionized. Altogether, compensation for state workers makes up nearly a third of the state budget and has only been increasing.
On average, state employees make anywhere from $25,000 to $40,000 more than their private sector counterparts, who pay for their compensation packages with hard-earned tax dollars. Given that everyone else in Connecticut is struggling and many are leaving the state because they can’t afford the high taxes, this arrangement isn’t fair.
So how did it get this way? Simply put, labor unions, particularly state employee unions, are powerful voting blocs that put politicians sympathetic to them in office, so they can control both sides of the negotiating table when it comes time to determine salaries and benefits. Connecticut union workers vote overwhelmingly Democratic and are too large a group for any Democratic politician to ignore. It’s hard to get exact figures for union membership, but the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that around 17.5 percent of the State’s workforce, or about 290,000 people, are unionized.
To put that into perspective, about 1,081,000 voted in the last gubernatorial election. Even if we assume only 40 percent of union members turn out to vote (and that rate is likely much higher), and only 70 percent of union members voted Democratic, that would still be about 81,200 people or about three times Malloy’s margin of victory. In other words, had Malloy gone against the will of the unions and campaigned for fiscal responsibility, he probably would have lost in a landslide.
The results of that electoral coalition were disastrous for our state. Both of Malloy’s historic tax increases went almost entirely to paying for state pensions, which still remain unaffordable and underfunded. Furthermore, Malloy’s weak negotiating position resulted in one of the most irresponsible State Employee Benefits and Compensation (SEBAC) agreements ever signed, which provides for two pay raises and prohibits layoffs until 2022, and won’t expire until 2027.
Unions have been in control for so long that they’ve built the system to benefit them. Connecticut remains one of four states that allows retirement benefits to be collectively bargained, which gives unions a huge incentive to influence elections and thus pick the state’s negotiator. Union contracts can also override state law, which makes labor groups less accountable to government oversight. Finally, few conflict-of-interest laws were put in place, allowing active union employees, like Joe Aresimowicz, the current Speaker of the House, in position where they actually get to vote on their own benefits and salaries.
In the upcoming election, you can’t expect Lamont to be any different than Dan Malloy when it comes to organized labor. We can conclude this by what he’s said and done to court the union vote. Lamont endorsed many of their costly policy initiatives, including a $15 minimum wage and paid family leave, and has opposed the Right to Work movement, which would allow workers to opt out of paying union dues. In exchange for this, CSEA/SEIU, which represents the bulk of state workers, has endorsed him and poured huge amounts of money and manpower to get him elected. Additionally, other large unions, such as the Connecticut AFL-CIO, endorsed Lamont as well.
One only needs to look at the recent UConn gubernatorial debate to get a taste of Lamont’s organized labor support. Nearly all the pro-Lamont demonstrators at the pre-debate rally were union members and made no intent to hide their affiliation. In fact, the union presence was so overwhelming that an observer unfamiliar with American politics would probably conclude that Lamont was a member of the “SEIU Party” and not the Democrats.
As we approach election day, the corrupt arrangement between Lamont’s Democratic Party and labor unions is all the more obvious and undeniably bad for our state. If you bring this up, big labor will inevitably accuse you of hating state workers, but this isn’t the case. In fact, I know many state employees and can say for a fact that they are by and large good people who do important work.
Labor bosses failed the people they represent by promising them the world in salaries and benefits and lying to them about the financial realities we face. This has caused immense harm to everyone that calls Connecticut home, and it must be stopped. This election we have a chance to break up this devious arrangement and make things better; let’s not mess up the opportunity.
Jacob Marie is a contributor for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at email@example.com.