“Do not think you can sell us out in June and buy us back in November.” What a great line.
Labor was a major focus of this year’s Netroots Nation, and one of the things we want to plant firmly in the public perception is that cutting public employee wages and benefits is dictated by choice, and is not a true emergency. The real reason states have a problem balancing their budgets is that their Republican politicians are too afraid of Grover Norquist and the Club for Growth to raise taxes and risk a primary challenge. Instead, they’ve chosen to take out their cowardice and lack of leadership on the backs of workers.
Make no mistake: This deal would dissolve collective bargaining rights in NJ as effectively as anything that Scott Walker has done in Wisconsin. The thing I can’t figure out is, why are these craven Democratic politicians going along with it? Why aren’t they standing up and fighting?
Thousands of angry government workers swarmed New Jersey’s Capitol on Thursday and some were briefly arrested, one day after Gov. Chris Christie and legislative leaders agreed to sharply increase the contributions public employees must make into their health insurance and pensions plans.
The proposed deal, which has yet to come to a vote in either house, would be a major victory for Mr. Christie, transferring billions of dollars a year in expenses from the government to its employees, and once again curbing the power of the governor’s favorite foil, the public employee unions.
It would eliminate the longstanding practice of negotiating health care payments in contract talks with the unions, instead imposing those terms through legislation. The proposed deal puts Mr. Christie firmly in the ranks of fellow Republican governors who have curtailed public workers’ collective bargaining rights this year, including Mitch Daniels of Indiana, John Kasich of Ohio, Paul LePage of Maine and Scott Walker of Wisconsin.
But the recent conflicts in those states have been strictly partisan affairs, with Democrats opposing moves made by Republican majorities. In New Jersey, the battle over pensions and health care has turned into an intramural fight among Democrats, who control both houses of the Legislature, threatening to shake up the party’s leadership and weaken it in coming elections, thereby strengthening Mr. Christie’s hand.
[…] Union members packed a State Senate hearing in Trenton on Thursday, the first one to take up the proposal. Like thousands of their compatriots in the State House hallways and on the lawn outside, they noisily protested what they called an assault on collective bargaining and a betrayal by key Democrats.
At one point, chanting protesters brought the hearing to a halt, which lasted until the State Police forced about two dozen of them out of the chamber. They were arrested, but then released.
“There is a campaign across the country to use this economic crisis as an excuse to destroy the rights of working people,” said Robert Master, regional legislative and political director of the Communications Workers of America, the union that represents the largest number of state employees. “Real Democrats would not have collaborated with Chris Christie to make this attack on the democratic rights of public workers.”