HARTFORD – Republicans today said the more than 900 state workers, who also function as union stewards on state time, cost taxpayers an estimated total of $93 million. They said that union activities should be paid with union dues, not taxpayer dollars.
State Representative Whit Betts (R- Bristol) said he supports the Governor’s efforts to have future state contracts face a vote in the legislature. “What’s troubling to me is that, in the past, legislators did not have the opportunity to vote on union contracts. That’s why often times we don’t know what’s in them. In this case, we have an inappropriate practice that has gone on for years and needs to be remedied.”
There are no limits on how much time the stewards, employed in every corner of state government, can devote to union activities, a system Republicans called “abusive’’ to taxpayers. Union dues, not taxpayer dollars, should pay for union activities such as handling grievance procedures, organizing, lobbying and communications.
“The problem is we have no way of knowing just how much time is spent doing these union activities, the information is not readily available.” Betts said. “I think everyone can agree that union representation is appropriate for the union members, but taxpayers shouldn’t have to pay for that time.”
Salaries for the stewards range from a low of $20,107 to a high of $201,698 with an average of $62,618 not including fringe benefits. Republicans pointed out that in comparison to the 911 stewards on state payrolls, there are only 698 workers in the entire Department of Environmental Protection.
“This is something legislators are just finding out about, and I am sure the public has no idea about,” said Betts. “We need to continue to go through the budget and find all of these areas with possible savings before we consider raising a single dollar from increased taxes.”