The agonizing serial of layoff-averting concessions by Connecticut’s public employee unions is over. It seems hard to argue with the conclusion of Chris Powell of the Manchester Journal Inquirer that the protracted fight between the unions and Governor Dan Malloy, across rank-and-file votes first in May and then again this month, amounted to “a game of chicken,” maiming the policy focus of the new administration’s first year.
The same week the concessions were conceded, Linda McMahon’s second candidacy for a U.S. Senate seat went from strong speculation to hired-gun inevitability. I continue to counsel linkage between these events.
During McMahon’s unsuccessful race last year against Richard Blumenthal, word leaked of an investigation of the McMahon family’s World Wrestling Entertainment Inc. by the Connecticut Labor Department over independent contractor abuse. Anyone who thinks WWE performers are not de facto employees who should be reclassified as such, de jure, has been taking chair shots without a helmet. Glenn Marshall, the Carpenters Union official Malloy chose as labor commissioner, had served on the bipartisan state misclassification commission that drafted tougher legislation in this area. But WWE engineered and publicized a penny-ante settlement of a low-level dispute, and the Labor audit is presumed dead.
It shouldn’t be. Nobody could have expected Commissioner Marshall to have his act together on the WWE file while he was just getting his seat warm and while global budget and union negotiations loomed. But now that the concessions crisis is history, reviving the audit — and releasing expeditious findings from it — is not only tenable, but also advisable. This is an easy, virtually non-controversial, way for Democrats to get back to the business of executing classic labor issues. “The base,” you know.
Linda McMahon and her ill-gotten hundreds of millions are again haunting the Connecticut political season — without the appropriate blowback of her toxic participation in 2010 having been exacted. Now is the time to exact it. It’s the partisan thing to do so. It’s even — OMG! — the principled thing. We’re supposed to have elections in this country. Though McMahon has every right to seek the Republican party’s mantle again, the rest of us have every interest in warning against letting her effort lapse into a deja vu reality warp.