State employee union members and representatives often like to point to non-unionized management when lawmakers discuss high salaries and where to trim the budget, but the growth of Connecticut’s public sector unions mean there are fewer non-union employees and high salaries on both side of the divide.
Connecticut has 50,082 full time employees and 94 percent of those employees are part of a union and covered under a collective bargaining agreement, according to figures provided by the Office of the State Comptroller.
The unionized state workforce of 47,101 full time employees earns $3.4 billion — an average of $73,036.
The remaining 6 percent of the state employee workforce consists of 2,981 employees including managers, directors, commissioners and legislative employees who earn a total of $272.8 million per year -- an average of $91,538 per employee.
For perspective, Connecticut could eliminate every non-unionized employee in its workforce and barely save enough money to cover this year’s deficit of $240 million, let alone the next biennium which faces a projected $4.6 billion deficit.
There are also an additional 28,000 part-time, student and seasonal employees.
But the $18,000 difference between union and non-union employees is only an average masking some very high salaries on both sides of the management/rank-and-file divide.
Combined, 23 percent of full-time state employees make over $100,000 in wages per year, including 617 employees making more than $200,000.
Although rank and file union members point to management as the source of big salaries, some may be surprised to find out that a number of Connecticut’s top earners are actually union brothers and sisters.
While certainly not blue-collar, college professors and UConn Health Center faculty are both part of the American Association of University Professors and often earn six-figure salaries.
Anthony Luciano, a doctor with UConn Health and union representative for AAUP-UCHC, earned $434,000 in 2017.
A recent contract dispute with UConn basketball coach Kevin Ollie revealed that Ollie was also a member of the AAUP — while earning $3 million per year.
Non-union employees include managers, directors and commissioners do earn some of the top salaries as well, and still receive the state’s generous pension and retiree healthcare plans provided they are employed long enough to become vested.
UConn President Susan Herbst earns $643,000 per year, while Andrew Agwunobi, chief executive for UConn Health Center, receives $687,000 per year, as only two examples.
It isn’t just managers and directors who are part of the small non-union workforce. Connecticut's 433 legislative employees are not part of a union, with 24 percent of them earning salaries over six-figures.
But all these big salaries mean big pensions, and when it comes to retirement benefits everyone -- both union and non-union -- gets treated largely the same.
The number of state retirees receiving six-figure pensions has grown rapidly over the past 8 years, increasing from 110 retirees in 2008 to 1,400 in 2018.
The current SEBAC concessions agreement will leave lawmakers in a bind during the next budget-writing session. Connecticut is projected to face a $4.6 billion deficit next biennium and the 2017 SEBAC concessions agreement guaranteed lay-off protections for those 47,000 employees, meaning lawmakers will have to find new ways to cut spending or raise revenue.
Gov. Dannel Malloy has already made headway in shrinking the state workforce. According to the governor, Connecticut has reduced the number of full-time employees by nine percent and the number of management positions by 28 percent since 2008.
But those reductions in the non-union workforce may have had some unintended consequences.
Although Connecticut statute says that management cannot be part of a union, recent increases in healthcare costs, raise cancellations and layoffs of non-union employees have led to unions making inroads into what could be considered managerial positions.
In 2012 state police captains and lieutenants won a five year fight to form a union, when the state Board of Labor Relations determined they did not qualify as management and Gov. Dannel Malloy chose not to argue the point as the case had already been through the court system once before.
In 2016, state of Connecticut assistant attorneys general voted to become part of the American Federation of Teachers, despite insistence from some AAG’s that they constitute management. The push to unionize was blamed in part on Malloy’s cancellation of raises for nearly 2,000 non-union employees in 2016.
However, Connecticut state government unions may have reached peak membership among existing full-time employees, unable to expand their reach much farther.
Despite the lower employment numbers, Connecticut’s costs related to its workforce — both union and non-union — continue to rise, threatening future state budgets.
With 94 percent of state employees protected by the SEBAC agreement and a limited number of non-union employees left, there may be fewer and fewer places to point the finger to in reducing the cost of state government.