- Associated Press - Tuesday, October 13, 2015

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) - Organized labor and the state’s chief business group on Tuesday announced the first steps in an unlikely alliance to confront Connecticut’s slow economic growth.

The Connecticut AFL-CIO and Connecticut Business and Industry Association are organizing a two-day conference in November to find ways to boost the state’s economy. The Connecticut Conference of Municipalities is working with the adversaries to promote the meeting.

Lori Pelletier, executive secretary-treasurer of the AFL-CIO, joked about the rare alliance between business and labor.

“We’re not having this press conference out in the middle of a field because lightning could strike there,” she said at a Capitol news conference. “It’s not going to strike here.”

The November meetings will help the two sides look “at how we can come together on issues we agree on to move Connecticut forward,” Pelletier said.

“There’s plenty to disagree on. But let’s just focus for two days or a day and a half on things we can agree on,” she said.

Joe Brennan, president of the Connecticut Business and Industry Association, said the budget debate that included tax increases unpopular with businesses helped spur discussions to organize the conference. He says many other issues will be on the agenda, but he is unsure if the attempt to find common ground will work.

“I can’t stand here and say it’s going to be a huge success. I just don’t know because it’s so new,” he said. “Kind of a new partnership and new dialogue going forward. We certainly understand we’re going to have a lot of differences.”

The two sides have disagreed on a range of issues before the legislation such as paid sick time, raising the minimum wage and taxes and spending. But business and labor have found common ground in raising issues about the state’s economic competitiveness, Brennan said.

Pelletier said organized labor and the Connecticut Business and Industry Association have backed legislation signed last year by Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy allowing the aerospace giant to use accumulated tax credits for the millions it’s spending to upgrade and improve manufacturing and research operations.

The state’s emergence from the recession has been slow. Connecticut’s unemployment rate fell to 5.3 percent in August, the lowest in more than seven years, but it has failed to fully recapture jobs lost from March 2008 to February 2010.

And wage growth in the state is weak, undermining revenue and forcing Malloy to propose spending cuts. This summer, Malloy and the legislature agreed to roll back some business taxes in response to strong business opposition.

“We’re interested in ways we can accelerate growth in Connecticut,” Brennan said. “It goes beyond the budget. That was certainly a catalyst, I think, for a lot of the conversations.”

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