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Former Union Leader Chides Finch, Backs Ganim

August 13th, 2015 · 26 Comments · City Politics, News and Events

Val Sorrentino, who was employed by the city from 1979-2013, shares this commentary that also appeared in the CT Post declaring there’s more to the story of unions endorsing Mayor Bill Finch. She was Deputy Director of Human Services upon her retirement. Sorrentino, a supporter of Joe Ganim, was Business Manager of LIUNA Local 200 from 1992-2013.

As a former Business Manager of the Laborers International Union of North America (LIUNA), Local 200, for over 20 years, I feel compelled to comment on the recent string of union endorsements for Mayor Bill Finch. I respect the construction and trades unions and I understand that they reap the benefits of the project labor agreements through jobs for their members and dues to their international unions.

However, it is a completely different scenario when your members are City of Bridgeport employees who work directly for the Finch administration. As a union leader for LIUNA Local 200, a public service local whose members all worked for the City of Bridgeport, I saw a concerted effort on the part of the Finch administration to break the unions. I saw many instances of bullying, intimidation and unfair treatment of employees. I saw a Labor Relations Department, controlled by the administration, who exacerbated union problems rather than try to resolve them.

Full disclosure, I myself filed a discrimination complaint against the City of Bridgeport in 2012 after I was mistreated and bullied by Finch appointees while I was enduring a personal health crisis–in end stage renal failure and waiting for a kidney transplant. Actions taken against me during 2012 were cruel, discriminatory and illegal. In my position as union Business Manager, I saw many other employees treated in a similar fashion.

The Office of Labor Relations’ mission, according to the City’s General Fund Budget, includes “resolving grievances and labor relations disputes … handling arbitrations, SLRB hearings and related or similar proceedings.” Since 2007, the Mayor’s Office has clearly controlled the Labor Relations Department. There were instances when a Labor Relations Officer recommended that a case be settled and a representative of the Mayor’s Office would not allow the settlement. That caused the case to be advanced to a higher level, either arbitration or a hearing with the State Labor Relations Board. The City would frequently bring in outside counsel to handle hearings and arbitrations. Often, the cases would unnecessarily drag on for months or years before reaching a resolution. The City would prolong the cases in an effort to spite the employee even though the attorney costs were mounting.

I witnessed the abuse of power by the Labor Relations Department and the Finch administration when they ordered that police officers be pulled off duty to hand-deliver letters to employees who resided in other towns such as Milford, Branford and Roxbury. Instead of sending a certified letter, which was the City’s past practice, police officers were used to scare and intimidate the employees and their families. This was done in routine situations such as for notices of a disciplinary or fact finding hearing. Imagine sending a police officer to deliver a letter out of town all while the City was short 80+ officers!

I saw many employees, including myself, hire personal attorneys and file lawsuits against the City. Again in these instances, the City paid outside counsel to represent them and, after a prolonged amount of time, settled the case with the employees.
This all equated to a waste of time, personnel and taxpayers money.

Treating employees cruelly and creating an atmosphere of bullying and intimidation not only harms the workers, causing loss of productivity, increased sick leave and medical costs, it also results in a significant cost to the taxpayers in outside attorney fees and settlements.

As a contrast …
Joe Ganim’s approach to dealing with the unions was very different. He believed in a more cooperative approach. Under his administration, a labor-management committee was formed to identify and fix problems, to improve services to the public and save money. This created an atmosphere of working together rather than an adversarial relationship as we see under Finch. The committee worked well for 12 years and was responsible for many successful and award-winning projects such as the formation of the Central Grants Office and the “Cash to Trash” program where citizens were paid to clean up blighted areas.

Under Joe Ganim’s administration, a Health Benefits Committee was formed, comprised of union and management, which served as a watch dog to make sure that the cost of employee health benefits were kept under control. It was under the Ganim Administration that the City chose to become self-insured which saved millions of dollars.

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26 Comments so far ↓

  • The Bridgeport Kid

    Forget for a moment Ms. Sorrentino has endorsed Ol’ Joe Ganim for mayor. This is a revelation about the way the Finch administration treats everyone. Is it a surprise? No. More than a few disgruntled employees have leaked information about the methods Mr. Finch and his majordomo “Pecker” Wood employ to manage the city’s workforce. So it’s really not a surprise, especially in light of the fact Mayor Finch assaulted a City Council member for not voting Yea for a multiyear tax abatement that would have cost the city hundreds of thousands of dollars in increased infrastructure usage.

    • DougDavidoff

      As a newcomer, it has seemed odd to me Mayor Finch would tolerate his chief of staff using the more-than-faintly-obscene nickname of “Pecker.” But I kept reading that nickname, over and over again. I deluded myself into thinking it was real.

      No kidding! I imagined what it would be like to meet Adam Wood. Could I call him “Pecker” to his face?

      “Doug,” I imagined him telling me on our second or third meeting. “Really, just call me ‘Pecker.’ Everyone does.”

      Then I realized I had been had. And so now I am angry. The reference to “Pecker” Wood in this post is the tenth use since 2011 according to my Google search of this blog’s history. I found out looking at each of the ten occasions, only The Bridgeport Kid uses this sexual perversion to address Mr. Wood. The Google dictionary is pretty clear about the meaning of “pecker;” it is a North American vulgarity meaning “a penis.” UrbanDictionary.com goes one half-step further, defining “pecker” as “a penis” or “a dick.” I could go on, but, Dear OIB Reader, you’ve probably had enough.

      And if that’s what you’re thinking–”Damn, I’ve had enough of this!”–that’s exactly the reaction I want you to have. After ten references, surely “pecker” has outlived its usefulness and its initial humor based on Adam Wood’s surname. Its repeated use is indeed an insult, but not to Mr. Wood. It is an insult to me as a reader, an infliction from whatever quarter of The Bridgeport Kid’s sexuality and psyche that causes him or her to repeat his or her old sex jokes in public. I’m a newbie, and I have already had enough. I’m a Democrat watching what I suppose to be a Democratic partisan tear into another Democrat in the most crass way, a sex pun based on the accident of the target’s name. I prefer to play politics nice but I’ll play politics rough and I have done it very well, thank you. But I cannot play politics with cruelty or lack of respect for the dignity of any person. I drew that line years ago. To me, The Bridgeport Kid crossed the line into cruelty and lack of individual respect many years ago, according to the record. It should’ve ended on its own. I call for ending it now.

      • Andrew C Fardy

        Stop the bullshit please, a definition of Pecker. Wood is a vicious SOB who deserves every name he is called. Until you have dealt with this peckerwood you don’t know anything about him. That newbie stuff is plain BS.

      • city hall smoker

        Doug, if you knew Adam like we know Adam, you’d agree pecker, penis and dick are very fitting names.

      • Bob Walsh

        Hey Doug,
        How about Adam Wood Pecker as in woodpecker?
        Why don’t you look that up in your Funk & Wagnalls and see what a destructive bird a Woodpecker can be?

      • The Bridgeport Kid

        A peckerwood is a rural white southerner, usually poor, undereducated or otherwise ignorant and bigoted, the term gained popularity in the Deep South during the early twentieth century and was meant to be derogatory. It is a reversal of the name of the red bellied woodpecker which had a patch of red on the back of its head and neck, therefore a peckerwood is a redneck, terms that describe similar groups of people are trailer trash or white trash but neither of those have the same effect or ring to them as peckerwood does.”
        From: “Peckerwood Nation”

        In Adam Wood’s case, the word is derogatory. This is Bridgeport, Mr. Davidoff. We don’t play nice here. The Finch administration under the direction of “Pecker” Wood has been insensitive to the needs of the people of the city of Bridgeport. More offensively, the Finch administration has shown a clumsy and inept handling of tax revenues, a callous disregard of the law, and public welfare and open hostility toward municipal employees who have the temerity to disagree with hizzoner’s policies.

        This is Bridgeport, Mr. Davidoff. We do not play nice here. You know where the door is. Don’t let it hit you in the ass.

      • Hector A. Diaz

        OK, FROM now on he’ll be addressed as ADAM “NO-PECKER” WOOD. Fine by me, I really like using lying-ass chief of staff better, though.

    • BOE SPY

      So you would characterize Ms. Sorrentino as a disgruntled employee? Would that give her an agenda? A reason to post an anti-Finch piece?

  • Robert Teixeira

    No! We shouldn’t forget about who has endorse whom and why. Nor should we forget what Ganim has done as Mayor or what Finch has done as Mayor. If you do that then you’re not voting on all their merits.

  • Bob Walsh

    So a former union leader who is backing Ganim says the unions and their members are afraid of Finch. But they won’t be afraid of Ganim because …
    He’s a nice guy? Not the Joe Ganim I remember.
    But then again that Joe Ganim was very nice to certain city employees. The employees who could help with all of the corner-cutting Joe would do to get his way. But then again was that the old Joe, the new Joe or is it really just the same old Joe?

  • Steven Auerbach

    First let me say I have total respect for Valerie Sorrentino. I’m embarrassed to say I’ve known her since High School. Worked with her in City Hall and know her to be a very respectable individual. That being said, she is also.very political. I am saddened she was given a hard time during a very difficult time in her life. I can tell you her story moved me so I have become an organ donor myself.

    The problem I have with this endorsement is like most Ganim supporters, they are just disgruntled former city employees and I have to ask, Why Valerie? Why Joe Ganim? Why? I mean we all know you worked for Joe for 10 years. You were there when he went to.jail, no?

    Four years ago you were a Mary-Jane Foster supporter. I am dumbfounded. But Valerie, I respect you, Joe is a nice guy, but Mary-Jane Foster would have been a more respectable choice and if you put your personal relationship aside and really cared about the city, you would be supporting Bill Finch. Does Valerie even live in Bridgeport anymore?

    For those who didn’t know, Valerie was a Central High School Highstepper! One of the highlights of the Football games. :-)

  • BptPorter

    And this is exactly why I will not vote for Finch. He is all about holding onto power. He bullied the Park commission to approve solar panels at Seaside Park, then he bullied his way to remove an elected Board of Ed. He threatens people with their jobs. He is a bully and when employees sue the city this comes out of our pocket. I don’t like Finch’s managing style and everything he does is because Adam Wood tells him to do it. It is like Finch can’t think for himself.

  • carolanne curry

    Steven Auerbach // Aug 13, 2015 at 11:40 pm
    To your post
    Mr. Auerbach,
    “Given a hard time”? … “disgruntled”? “More respectable choice”?
    And best line yet … “she doesn’t live in Bridgeport.”
    And so therefore she doesn’t care about the City anymore.
    And so therefore she could have died, and what difference would it make to you as you court the living dead with your adjusted reality?

    • Steven Auerbach

      Carolanne Curry, read the entire post. I like Valerie and she was a huge Foster supporter. I do not know the circumstances Carolanne, but let’s face it, she is political and her endorsement really doesn’t resonate. If she doesn’t live in Bridgeport it holds less weight and if you know Valerie Sorrentino, every possible individual in her world has heard this story. Seriously, it is sad. I cannot imagine what the administration tried to do that was not legal. I can totally understand them canning your ass, but Valerie?

      I do not know Adam Wood that well. What I do believe as an observer is he is an excellent handler for Mayor Finch. He has been respectful to me and I do not know anyone who has a negative comment about Adam Wood other than disgruntled former employees. Now, if Valerie cares to give me further insight, I am curious. My number is readily available.

      Carolanne, I was not seriously making fun of your demise under Finch. I do not know how or why you and John Gomes got kicked to the curb. When Ganim let me go it was politics. I was Moran’s number-one supporter. I never questioned or complained. I’ll bet Joe Ganim wished I was one guy he never let go!

      For the record as my post clearly stated, I have great respect for Valerie and was very moved by her entire situation. Everything else is just politics Carolanne, let’s just agree on that!

  • BOE SPY

    And Ganim was nice to the unions?
    articles.courant.com/1998-02-14/news/9802140178_1_city-teachers-largest-teachers-union-new-teachers
    A union-sponsored ad in the Connecticut Post depicted an illustration of the mayor as a two-faced freak and blasted him for going to court seeking to overturn a contract.

    • Steven Auerbach

      BOE SPY, that was brilliant! Hopefully Maria Pereira will be too busy knocking on doors to open this link. Maybe someone from the Finch campaign will see this. That article was excellent. It talks about his ads, running for Governor and how awful he was to the Teachers union. Thank you!

      Joe, run for the hills. Save yourself from the wrath of Maria. Run Joe, run!

  • Bob Halstead

    Valerie, you were a great union person, a very smart lady with integrity. What this administration has done to good people like you is reprehensible and I’m sure it will not be lost on the voters. Thanks for posting.

  • BOE SPY

    She was the business manager of LIUNA for 20 years. Did she work for the union or for the city? The members pay dues and the city has to pay the union employees? What are the dues for? She says the city brought in outside council and dragged out grievances. That is how the it protects taxpayers from underproductive union employees. If she thought the grievance was going on too long she should have dropped it. Both sides were equally responsible for how long the grievance went on.

  • BOE SPY

    This is the problem with city unions. These city-paid union leaders spend too much time and money defending city-paid people who should be fired. Remember this article next time your taxes go up and your city workers are sleeping on the job. I like it the way Adam Wood is characterized as uncooperative when he will not give in to union demands. Maybe it was union leadership that was being uncooperative. Cooperation is in the eye of the beholder. You really think Adam Wood is carrying out a personal campaign against a secretary or printer? Like he knows these people well enough to like them or not? Here is their contract.
    www .bridgeportct.gov/filestorage/89019/96373/104098/LIUNA_CONTRACT.pdf
    The rules Mr. Wood has to follow are clearly spelled out for any judge to interpret in addition to the normal labor laws that protect any worker.

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