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New Canaan Town Hall employees unionize

Updated 11:30 am, Wednesday, December 4, 2013
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Thirty-four New Canaan Town Hall workers voted Monday to unionize, according to Council 4 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees.

Council 4 spokesman Larry Dorman and service representative Bob Parziale said the vote was a win for those employees. The vote, which took place at the police station, was 19-15. This is only the second time there was an election to unionize those workers. The first and last time was in 2007 and it was voted down, Dorman said.

First Selectman Robert Mallozzi, however, said he was "perplexed" with the motivations behind the Town Hall employees who voted to unionize.

"I note that these employees presently work under ... conditions far more generous than myself and all of my peer group ever experienced in the work force," Mallozzi said in an email.

Some of those conditions, he said, include a pension plan, subsidized health insurance, annual raises, personal and sick days, 11 paid holidays, annual raises and a one-hour lunch break.

The 34 employees are from five different town buildings and from 24 different job titles, including assistant town clerks, accountants, assistant assessors, administrative assistants, office managers, program directors and parking enforcement officers.

Parziale said it is common in Connecticut for employees in such positions to be unionized. One of the reasons why they voted in favor of union representation was because most of them work "at will," he said.

"In these difficult economic times, they want to have some sense of security," Parziale said.

After six months on the job, Mallozzi said, those workers are no longer "at will."

Council 4 already represents some employees at the New Canaan Board of Education and the Department of Public Works, according to Dorman. The union now represents more than 100 New Canaan Town Hall workers, he said.

Across the state, Council 4 represents about 35,000 employees in state and local government, boards of education and the private sector.

Dorman said those in favor of union representation are also seeking protection and "a voice in the job."

"I think that New Canaan Town Hall workers voted to unionize so that they could protect the services they provide to the community," he said. "Without the protection of a collective bargaining agreement, you don't have any protection at all."

However, Mallozzi said, "I have been in office for two years and it is true that I expect much from our town employees; I was elected because that was what is expected of me by the taxpayers. A vast majority of our employees deliver on those expectations. Those that don't may feel being represented by a union could be helpful to them. Perhaps that is the motivation? Time will tell."

noliveira@bcnnew.com, 203-330-6582, @olivnelson