by Ron Gambardella ◊ Apr 06, 2012
What if your boss promised you a raise and you didn’t get it? I suspect you would first be angry, then resentful, and perhaps a little revengeful. It’s no secret that unions have supported the Democratic Party for quite some time now. There has been a cozy relationship built on votes in exchange for lucrative contracts. As a former Legislative Council member here in Hamden, I have witnessed the carte blanch approval of contacts with little or no scrutiny on the part of the Democrats who controlled the council. The arrangement was time tested and works fine until someone balks on the agreement.
A good example of promises broken was the recent debacle that occurred when the Adminstration sought raises on behalf of union members who supported their re-election efforts. “We proposed this package because they are the lowest paid employees in the town of Hamden,” said Chief Administrative Officer Curt Balzano Leng. “They are the backbone of Government Center and don’t have the ability to make extra money through overtime.” These words were spoken from a man who himself was recently awarded his own substantial salary increase – Mr. Leng’s salary increased by $17,248 taking him from a base pay of $72,652 per year to $90,000 in one giant step.
Think about how Mr. Leng played his hand. He first manages to win his own raise during a lame duck session of the Legislative Council. Then, after securing his own raise, he promised the union there is plenty more for you; however, everything must be done in its proper order – me first, then you. Well, you can imagine their shock and dismay when the Democrats reneged on the deal that has withstood the test of time over decades.
The sad truth is that the Town of Hamden is in financial distress. The old agreements between the Democratic Party and the unions will have to be re-examined in light of recent developments. I would propose an alternative to the long standing mutual agreement. My approach would be to sit down with the unions and work out a deal that reflects the current fiscal realities that the town must now resolve. The mutual benefit from such dialog would produce job security, good will among town employees and a less adversarial work environment. There would be no surprises.
The town has had to go to ligation twice for its failed policies toward the union members. The outcome has resulted in failure at the expense of the taxpaying community. This most recent scenario will also result in failure. Isn’t it time for a change? Our town employees deserve better and the taxpaying community deserves better. Mr. Leng has successfully broken the backs of the very people who put their trust in him. From this display, the unions will have to re-think their strategy going forward.