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Connecticut Town Ordered to Pay for Union Workers’ Coffee

A Connecticut town must provide their union workers free coffee and milk, according to a ruling from the State Board of Labor Relations. 

The board also ordered town leaders to reinstate “Dress Down Fridays” for the union clerical and custodial workers. 

The dispute involved the town of Orange and the local chapter of the United Public Service Employees Union. 

The board determined the town retaliated against the union members for comments they made at a finance meeting in 2009. 

The day after that meeting, First Selectman James Zeloi eliminated the free coffee and milk and the following day ended “Dress Down Friday.” Zeoli told The New Haven Register that he pulled the plug on the coffee to save money and stopped casual Fridays because some employees were abusing the privilege. 

“It shows you how crazy state government has become,” Connecticut Republican Party Chairman Chris Healy told Fox News Radio. “You’d almost laugh at it, if it wasn’t so serious in tone. 

This is just another black eye on state government.” 

Healy said he was especially troubled that not only will taxpayers be forced to purchase coffee and milk for the union workers, but they will also be required to pay $10,000 in legal bills. 

“It says the state labor relations board is in the pocket of labor,” Healy said. 

Wayne Gilbert, the regional director of the union, told Fox News Radio this was a case about an elected official who intimidated workers because they exercised their First Amendment rights by speaking out at the finance meeting. 

“This is not about free coffee,” Gilbert said. “The complaint was filed because First Selectman Zeloi is a workplace bully.” 

“He bullies the workers around, he bullies the union officials around and if you disagree with him in a very civil way, he starts yelling and screaming and calling you names,” he said. 

Healy said nothing prevents workers in the town of Orange from taking coffee breaks or drinking coffee – but he wonders why they don't purchase their own coffee. 

Gilbert said they filed the complaint to protect the workers – and he accused Republicans of misrepresenting the grievance. 

“It’s like a couple of bucks a week,” he said about the coffee. 

“We’ve got oil depletion allowances out there for these major oil companies to the tune of billions of dollars and we’re talking about a couple of dollars for coffee?” 

“My members can afford their own coffee,” Gilbert added. 

But Healy said if that’s the case, why are they footing the coffee bill?

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Todd Starnes is host of Fox News & Commentary, heard on hundreds of radio stations. Sign up for his American Dispatch newsletter, be sure to join his Facebook page, and follow him on Twitter. His latest book is "God Less America."

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