NEW HAVEN, CT – The city police union overwhelming voted to decertify from AFSCME Council 15 Tuesday night.
The vote was 217 for and 12 against the decision, said Louis Cavaliere Jr., local union president. Breaking away from AFSCME has been in the works for about a year, he said, and members have informally being talking about it for the last 15 years or so.
The union has been an AFSCME member for at least 60 years, he said.
The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees is the largest public service union in the nation, with more than 1.6 million working and retired members, according to the organization’s website.
“The members obviously didn’t have much trust in Council 15 and their representation,” Cavaliere said. “It shows our members are ready to explore new avenues.”
The new union will be called the Connecticut Alliance of City Police Elm City Local. The Waterbury police union also is a member and helped New Haven police with the break-off process.
“This wasn’t a board decision, it came from the floor,” Cavaliere said.
Hamden police recently decertified from AFSCME Council 15, as well, according to Cavaliere. He said he expects the new coalition to add more departments than Waterbury and New Haven.
The union was paying about $280,000 a year to AFSCME and Council 15. The two biggest things the union got in return was legal representation and lobbyists.
“For the money we are paying what we are getting back in return doesn’t feel like a good decision,” he said.
Each union member pays about $60 a month in dues. That amount will likely stay the same until the independent union can build its own nest egg for legal and other expenses. The full split won’t happen for a couple of months. AFSCME and Council 15 have five business days to appeal, but Cavaliere said he couldn’t see why they would, considering the overwhelming vote.
One of the final straws was the last collective bargaining agreement with the city, Cavaliere said.
Union members will lose out on competitive retirement medical benefits. Many officers have left in the past few months soon after hitting the required retirement years of service, which normally is 20 years. They get to keep the old retiree medical benefits.
“We were being told ‘you don’t want to go to arbitration, it’s a nightmare,’” Cavaliere said. “Maybe they were telling the truth, but the guys didn’t like that.”