WALLINGFORD — Town Councilor Craig Fishbein has voted twice recently against renewing town employee contracts, citing his opinion that they contain “illegal” language.
Fishbein, an attorney who serves on the Town Council and as state representative from the 90th District, was the sole dissenting vote on renewing a contract with Council 4 AFSCME Local 1183 on Nov. 27, and with United Public Service Employees Union Local 424, Unit 18B, earlier this week.
Fishbein objects to language in the contracts that says employees must join and pay dues to their respective unions.
He cites Janus v. AFSCME, a U.S. Supreme Court decision handed down in June, that states public sector employees can opt out of paying union dues and still be covered by collective bargaining agreements.
Included in the town employee contracts is a savings clause, which says that if any language in the contract is unenforceable, it doesn’t invalidate the rest of the contract.
“The savings clause talks about a future act,” Fishbein said Thursday. “It’s talking about an event that has yet to happen, yet everybody agrees here that that event has already happened, so it can’t apply.”
At Tuesday’s council meeting, Mayor William W. Dickinson Jr. said the language issue will be resolved, but it will take time.
“The law is in transition due to a recent court decision,” he said, “and we have obligations to negotiate with another party… We’re not in a position to demand that language be placed in a contract that’s unilateral.”
Janis M. Small echoed Dickinson’s comments Thursday.
“We’re going to comply with the law,” Small said, adding that there’s “some flux with the full parameters of the Janus decision.”
Town Council Chairman Vincent Cervoni said Thursday he disagrees with Fishbein’s opinion that the language is illegal.
“The fact of the matter is that the Janus court interpretation of the Constitution supersedes any language in the contract,” he said, and that the savings clause is enough to cover the Janus decision.
Town councilors Vincent F. Testa Jr. and Jason Zandri also objected to Fishbein’s logic during Tuesday’s meeting.
“To declare it illegal, in that way, I think is a little unfair to your colleagues,” Testa said.
Zandri said he felt comfortable supporting the contract.
“It doesn’t dissuade me from (supporting) what I see to be otherwise a very well put together agreement,” Zandri said.
Fishbein represented a group of New Haven firefighters recently in their case to disassociate from a union representing the state’s fire departments. During the 2017 legislative session, Fishbein introduced a bill that would have prohibited the state from collecting dues for state employee unions.
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