- Associated Press - Friday, March 25, 2016

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) - One of Connecticut’s largest state employee unions is intensifying its public relations campaign to fight looming layoffs, launching the second in a series of television ads intended to generate public support for the workers.

The 30-second spot was scheduled to appear Friday evening during the NCAA basketball tournament on CBS.

As in the previous commercial released by SEIU District 1199 in February, the new ad attempts to highlight the work performed daily by state workers. It focuses on public services that affect residents’ daily lives, such as making sure drinking water is safe and providing mental health care to veterans.

“We are not a state that breaks promises. We are not a state that works only for the wealthy and the powerful,” an announcer states. “We are a state that works for all of us. We are a caring state. We are a grateful state.”

SEIU District 1199 represents more than 7,600 state workers including nurses, direct care workers and others. The ad, part of its “One Connecticut” campaign, airs as Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and legislative leaders acknowledge that large numbers of layoffs appear more likely after the unions’ umbrella organization recently declined to discuss possible pension and benefit concessions to help fix the state’s deficit problems.

Malloy said last week his administration has begun the steps required by law and union contracts before layoff notices will be issued. He said his goal is to complete job cuts by June 9. Roughly 1,900 total job cuts are expected, a figure that could change and includes layoffs, eliminated unfilled positions and retirements.

“I think this is very difficult for labor. That doesn’t escape me at all. I think labor, like our citizenry, became used to an economy where growth was more rapid,” said Malloy, who has repeatedly said everyone in Connecticut needs to understand there’s a “new economic reality.”

Jennifer Schneider, a spokeswoman for SEIU District 1199, said state officials need to look somewhere other than state employees and the services they provide for places to find the savings needed to balance the state’s budget. The current fiscal year, which ends June 30, is at least $220 million in deficit, while the new fiscal year beginning July 1 is estimated to be $900 million in the red. Each year’s budget is about $20 billion.

“It doesn’t start with eliminating services,” she said. “We’re not going to make our state stronger by making less people available to children in DCF (Department of Children and Families).”

The unions have urged lawmakers and the governor to consider higher taxes on the wealthy and corporations as an alternative to layoffs. Meanwhile, both Democrats and Republicans have urged the unions to come to the table and discuss concessions. The top Republican leaders of the General Assembly on Thursday sent a letter to seven union chiefs, asking the State Employee Bargaining Agent Coalition meet with Malloy’s administration.

“You owe it to the workers you represent to meet with the governor and take every opportunity in your power to prevent layoffs,” they wrote. “After all, it would only cost a couple hours of time.”

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