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Sunday, March 06, 2011



Was free coffee a negotiated benefit in a contract?

If so, there's merit in the complaint (no matter how silly it sounds).

If not, then someone needs to jump in the lake.


William: Good point.

The case seems to refer to it as "a practice" while the news stories call it a "tradition." From that, it doesn't look like the coffee was part of a contract. Therefore, the issue seems to revolve only around whether or not taking away the coffee was retaliation.

The case (http://www.ctdol.state.ct.us/csblr/4490.pdf)as it turns out is a good deal more interesting than the newspapers made it out to be. Apparently, to prove that retaliation existed, the union needed to prove only three things. One: That the union was "engaged in protected, concerted activities". Two that "the employer had knowledge of those activities" and three that "the employer harbored anti-union animus."

Strangely enough, the board does not seem to require anyone to prove that that sentiment was responsible for an action.

Since all that had to be proven was that the unions were engaged in union activitiy, that the employer was aware of that and that the employer had anti-union sentiments, Zeoli seems to have made the court's decision painfully easy.

At one point, when a woman leaves early for an appointment, he tells a reporter,"See what I have to put up with…she works in public works, …they maintain the roads,…in fact, if she were to lay down she would become part of the curb.”

Oops. Still. I think there is something lacking here.

Ken Blanchard

I agree with Miranda's point here. The standard of proof for "retaliation" is absurdly easy to meet. I would only add that there is something amiss when free coffee and orange juice are part of a public union contract.


Some of the most absurd things we do, are the ones we do "officially".


Interesting to note that last year the First Selectman laid off all managerial and other non-union employees for 8 days without pay in order to make financial ends meet. Union employees were only given 6 days off. Curious that non-union employees don't seem to be able to classify that as 'retalaiation' for their non-union status, but union folks can bring a claim for caffeine depravation.


Bill: Leave it to me to miss the important details! Thanks for pointing them out!


But Bill, the act of laying off non-union employees does not meet the critical "tests" of being engaged in a union activity and harboring anti-union sentiments. So therefore, no "retaliation". In order for them to claim retaliation for their non-union status, they would first have to join the union.

Mark Brackett

After actually reading the decision linked above, it's not enough to prove antiunion sentiments. That just allows the case to go forward. The real test is whether the town can offer an affirmative defense (think of it as guilty until proven innocent).

In this case, the labor board didn't buy the cost saving defense - mainly because of the timing (the day after a public dressing down), the lack of other cost saving measures, and mo evidence to back up that it was a planned in advance of the public meeting.


Thanks for the correction, Mark. I'm still not comfortable with the "guilty until proven innocent" method, but your observation does make the decision seem more reasonable.

larry kurtz

Superlative offering, Ms. Flint. Is it not spelled Connecticut?


It is, Mr. Kurtz. As I said - leave it to me to miss the important details.

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