The Political Landscape and the SAG Award

by Les Berstein

Dan Livingston, lead negotiator for the State Employee Bargaining Agent Coalition (SEBAC), addressed a crowd of over 60 faculty members on April 25 about the upcoming SAG award and the political landscape that affects collective bargaining.  He began his presentation by providing an overview of collective bargaining and its history in our state.  He explained how the results of SEBAC’s negotiations with the state are responsible for the healthcare and retirement benefits provided to us all.  He reminded the group that success in maintaining our benefits relies on active, effective, and functioning unions.

Dan provided a rather detailed, factual, and sobering account of the ways that the current national and local political climate has led to substantial attacks upon and attempts to erode the protections afforded to state employees by collective bargaining.  Those include efforts to weaken unions in general and attacks upon the defined benefit retirement plans that have been in place for decades.  Dan’s comments resonated with many who have witnessed the vilification of state employees in the face of the state’s failures (since 1939 and before there were unions to fund the state employees’ pension plans.

Dan explained how the current trends have manifested themselves nationally with, for example, the dismantling of public sector unions in Wisconsin and the expected decision in the Janus case currently before the United States Supreme Court.  The expected decision in that case could cripple unions by allowing people to receive the benefits of union representation without paying any dues or fees.  Alas, there is no free lunch.  Being forced to provide representation to members of a collective bargaining unit at no charge to them would diminish greatly the strength of unions.  Dan discussed how current trends threaten to roll back many of the gains made over the years, including, potentially, the gains made with regard to our own pensions and health insurance.  Our only recourse seems to be to remain united and committed to maintaining strong individual unions.

The second part of Dan Livingston’s presentation focused on a history of the retirement plans offered to Connecticut State Employees, the general benefits and drawbacks of various options, and important changes that are occurring.  Those changes stem from the SAG award.  Briefly, the terms of that award are being implemented in a manner that affords many state employees the option of switching the retirement plan in they choose to participate.  Suffice it to say that the decision regarding whether or not to change plans is complex and must be made on an individual basis.  There is no “one size fits all.”  An FAQ on this topic can be found here. The FAQ attempts to answer common questions.  If you have a question not found in the FAQ, please feel free send it along to us.

If you have not already done so, protect your current and future union benefits by signing a new membership form today!