New Jersey Public Workers Protest Sell-Out by State Legislators

NJ Rally1

As lawmakers considered a budget with devastating effects on New Jersey public workers, 10,000 union activists rallied outside the capitol Thursday. Signs denounced politicians of both parties who are hurting working families, and decried the entitled behavior of Gov. Chris Christie, who has used state helicopters for personal business.

NJ Rally2

NJ Rally3

About 10,000 CWAers and union activists from New Jersey filled the streets Thursday outside the state capitol in Trenton to protest a deal between Gov. Chris Christie and some legislators that would take away the right of public workers to bargain over health care and pensions.

Inside the Capitol, union members packed a meeting of the Senate budget committee, testifying against the deal and criticizing politicians for selling out working families. CWA District 1 Legislative/Political Director Bob Master testified for CWA.

About 25 union leaders were arrested, including CWA local presidents Adam Liebtag, Local 1036; Ken McNamara, Local 1037; Paul Alexander, Local 1038; and New Jersey state AFL-CIO President Charles Wowkanech and Secretary-Treasurer Laurel Brennan.

Outside the hearing, CWA District 1 Vice President Chris Shelton blasted the governor and leading legislators for turning on working families. "Stripping hundreds of thousands of workers of their basic right to collective bargaining is a fundamental betrayal of the middle class," he said. "Trenton's anti-union bill has awoken the passions of hundreds of thousands of union members across New Jersey and across the country. They are right to be angry and they are right to speak out."

On CWA's stewards' call last night, Carolyn Wade, president of CWA Local 1040 and a CWA Executive Board at-large member, said the contract covering 40,000 state workers is up in less than two weeks and there has been no real bargaining.

"These legislators are hearing from CWA members and public workers across the state and they'll hear us again in November if they vote to take away our collective bargaining rights."

The deal eliminates collective bargaining over health care, requires workers to pay 30 percent of their health care costs and make additional pension contributions. It will be considered by the New Jersey Senate and the Assembly budget committee next week. More demonstrations are planned as legislators meet.