Hartford Advocate

Labor's Largesse

The three most active union givers this year

By Eric Friedman

Nov. 4, 1998

Labor unions give almost exclusively to Democratic candidates. While the collective impact of labor money in state elections is much smaller than that of business, these are the three most active givers this year.

Connecticut Education Association

Also goes by: CEA
Likes: Kids.
Dislikes: Deteriorating schools.
Impressive statistic: The CEA PAC has more money in the bank ($60,000) than does the People's Bank PAC.

Chief among the issues for the state's educators is the already tense brouhaha over state funding for public schools. CEA and other education advocates claim the state has abdicated its responsibility to the cities.

In fact, there are a number of areas where the CEA could be lobbying for more public cash for the schools. The teachers are looking for state money to fix schools that are falling apart. There are costs associated with integrating special education children into the mainstream school populations, hiring aides to assist them. There is money needed to train older teachers on computers. Then money is needed to train new teachers as the old ones retire. But before you scoff--it's all for the kids.

Connecticut State Employees Association

Also goes by: CSEA
Likes: Good, secure jobs.
Dislikes: John Rowland, privatization, IBM.
Impressive statistic: CSEA's PAC has spent $10,000 more this year than it did in the 1996 election.

Rick Melita, CSEA's government affairs director, illustrates the union's greatest concern over the next year: Gov. Rowland's plan to wrest the state's information systems out of government purview. With Reaganesque zeal, the governor has taken a cleaver to the state bureaucracy, and the people who suffer are the wage-earning class. "Rowland loves to take credit for cutting the budget, but all he's done is take away state jobs," Melita said.

As it is, the CSEA is losing membership, he says, because people are leaving their jobs for the private sector, where the paychecks are greener. "The one thing that made a state job attractive is the job security. It's not the pay," Melita complains, "and now it looks like there's no job security either."

The information-systems plan could cost the union 600 jobs. "We can't be laid off because of privatization. It's part of the contract with the state," Melita says. But the CSEA hopes to fortify itself with friends in the right places, courtesy of $46,000 in gifts this year and another $57,000 in the bank.

Connecticut Laborers' Local 230

Also goes by: Connecticut Laborers' Political League
Likes: Money and influence.
Dislikes: Reform, the press.
Impressive statistic: The Laborers have the largest labor PAC in Connecticut; as of Oct. 8, they had given almost $50,000, with another $80,000 in the bank.

There's been much controversy swirling around the Laborers' union, which represents unskilled workers in the building trades. The national leadership of Laborers' International Union of North America was a prominent source of soft money for the Democratic National Committee in the 1996 election cycle, and it is reputed to have ties to organized crime.

At Local 230 in Hartford, Vice President Steven Manos is locked in a struggle against his local leadership, having run an unsuccessful campaign for business manager. Manos was assaulted by Local 230 business manager Charles LeConche and later testified before a congressional subcommittee. Along with other members of the local, he filed a racketeering lawsuit against his local leadership.

LeConche, who is listed as treasurer of the Connecticut Laborers' Political League, didn't respond to calls for comment.


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