I wasn’t there because of the heavy rain, but lots of other people were:
TRENTON — In front of a crowd of thousands of protesters, the president of the state’s largest teachers union accused Gov. Chris Christie of trying to foment a civil war within the middle-class.
“All of New Jersey’s middle-class is hurting, but this governor and his right-wing supporters are trying to start a middle-class civil war,” said New Jersey Education Association President Barbara Keshishian.
As she spoke, thousands of public workers filled the street in front of the Statehouse, wearing ponchos and holding umbrellas to keep as dry as possible in the pouring rain. State Police estimated the crowd at 3,100.
The rally, organized by the state AFL-CIO, was both aimed at pushing back against benefit concessions demanded by Christie, and in support of Wisconsin public unions, who are fighting Gov. Scott Walker’s attempt to roll back their collective bargaining rights.
In his budget address earlier this week, Christie said private sector workers “support the rich benefits of public employees.” He’s pushing for major givebacks from the workforce, including paying more towards their health premiums and downgrading future pension benefits.
Local union officials spoke one after another at today’s rally, each handing over checks to Wisconsin AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Stephanie Bloomingdale, who told the crowd “our fight is your fight, and our fight is for the middle-class.”
The featured speaker, national AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka, compared Christie to Walker and other Republican governors, saying “they were not elected to dictate.”
“They were elected to solve problems, not create conflict,” Trumka said.
About half a block away from the rally was a counter-protest led by Americans for Prosperity New Jersey Director Steve Lonegan.
“Here’s our message to our friends down the block: Go back to work. We’re paying you,” said Lonegan, who told the crowd that “the battle that you’re seeing today is a war against the taxpayers.”