Shelton Teamsters head appeals to aldermen in contract impasse

Photo of Brian Gioiele

SHELTON — Teamsters Local 145, amid what has been more than four years of contract negotiations with the city, is now appealing to the Board of Aldermen for help reaching a resolution. 

Dennis Novak, secretary, treasurer and principal officer of Teamsters Local 145, which represents municipal workers in the city’s highway and bridges department, made his plea to the aldermen during the board's meeting Thursday. Also voicing support for the union was the Shelton Democratic Town Committee. 

“I’m here today to call on the Board of Aldermen to take an active role in settling these collective bargaining agreements,” said Novak, adding that the board must “hold (Lauretti) accountable” and “make sure he understands that this isn’t just affecting our members, it’s affecting the entire city.” 

Lauretti has regularly passed blame for delays on Novak, saying that he has been doing contracts for 30 years and “we've never had anything like this. They want to call me the bully because they can’t bully me.”   

When asked about the Democrats’ statement, Lauretti rhetorically asked “who in their right mind would listen to them.” 

Board of Aldermen President John Anglace, Jr., said these negotiations are strictly an administrative job.

"If the aldermen get involved, we as a board cannot be objective when it comes time to approve or disapprove an agreement," Anglace said. "It doesn;t make sense to get involved now. If there are differences between the parties, they have to work them out."

Novak’s public remarks came only weeks after city workers with Teamsters Local 145, joined by fellow Teamsters and supporters, gathered in front of City Hall prior to an aldermen meeting, calling on the administration to finally agree on a new contract.  

Members and supporters carried signs reading “City Workers Deserve to Retire with Dignity,” “Essential Workers Deserve Respect,” and “Mayor Lauretti: Stop Threatening City Workers” as speakers demanded the city negotiate with the union, which has been without a contract for more than four years. 

Novak, in his remarks, stated Lauretti has been cited for attempting to bully workers into not joining the union and direct bargaining with city workers. 

“These are not baseless allegations,” Novak said. 

Novak stated that Lauretti has been found to have engaged in unlawful activity by the Connecticut State Labor Board - a cease-and-desist order was issued in December 2021 after the board ruled that Lauretti was guilty of direct bargaining with WPCA members.

Last month Lauretti sent checks to some the union's members covering pay increases of between 1.75 percent and 2.5 percent, dating back to the 2017-18 budget years.

“I believe that it represents .25 percent difference between my last offer to your union representative over a year ago,” Lauretti said in the letter sent to the union employees dated Nov. 4. “Please know that I realize the current state of our economy has presented some challenges to the working residents of our country, which includes you.”  

Lauretti noted that the union members’ last pay increase was June 30, 2018, before stating that the “system has failed you.”  

Novak countered saying that Lauretti is "the system,” and that it was he who has failed the workers.  

Matt McQuaid, a spokesperson for the union, said Lauretti providing the checks was “breaking the rules by direct bargaining,” but the employees have every right to cash the checks.  

Union attorney Chip Walsh confirmed that the Teamsters have filed an unfair labor practice charge against the city with the State Labor Board in response to the checks. 

Novak found support Thursday from the Shelton Democratic Town Committee, which submitted a resolution calling on Lauretti to stop using delaying tactics and negotiate a new contract in good faith. 

“His behavior has caused economic harm to members of IBT 145 and other City unions and has led to a demoralized workforce,” The DTC statement reads. “(Lauretti) must take responsibility for any costs incurred by his actions and these costs should not be passed onto the taxpayers and residents of Shelton.” 

Novak further stated that Lauretti’s inaction on a new contract could jeopardize retention and staffing levels right in the middle of the winter when the Highway and Bridges Department is an essential service for residents. 

“It’s not just city services and labor relations that have been jeopardized under Lauretti’s tenure – his unlawful behavior is causing the city to waste money on litigation,” Novak said. “Shelton residents care about the stewardship of the town’s finances, and to frivolously throw away tax dollars due to reckless disregard for the law is disrespectful to them. 

"Where things currently stand is that both contracts are in arbitration,” Novak added. “After more than four-and-a-half years, these public servants deserve to have a settled contract yesterday.”