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NJ public workers deal Christie a setback at Trenton rally

By David Hungerford |
March 3, 2011
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Trenton, NJ - About 6000 public workers turned up in a pouring rain here, Feb. 25 to stop New Jersey Governor Christopher Christie's campaign to strip their unions of collective bargaining rights. The main sponsors were the New Jersey Education Association (NJEA) and Communications Workers of America (CWA). The rally strongly supported the heroic struggle of Wisconsin public workers to keep their collective bargaining rights. Unions contributed checks in support of the Wisconsin workers. Several ralliers wore cheesehead hats and many carried signs in support of the Wisconsin workers. Christie claims that since the state's finances are wreck, workers have to give up bargaining rights. He is particularly intent on destruction of the 208,000-member NJEA, one of the most influential teachers' unions in the country. This is the same guy who, immediately upon taking office, allowed an upper-bracket income tax to expire, costing the state $1 billion a year in lost revenue. Then he inflicted brutal cuts in state aid to schools and municipalities. The workers know where the blame lies and they aren't having any of it. The state's pension fund is over $100 billion in deficit in its obligations to employees. For 17 years the state has paid only a pittance, if anything, to the fund while workers paid full up per contract. Even more, the fiscal crisis is due to the Wall Street collapse of 2008. The masses know it, for the entire governor's plan is nonsense. The militancy is flowing upward to the union leadership. NJEA President Barbara Keshishian denounced the governor's "well organized and well funded war to destroy labor unions and public education."

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka asked the crowd, "What's up with your governor?" to loud boos in response. He said public employees didn't cause New Jersey's budget problems or pension problems and denounced tax cuts to the rich while rewarding CEOs and banks for causing the crises. Labor leaders tended to echo a Democratic Party line. They spoke in defense of the ‘middle class,’ not of the working class, which is a mistake.

This approach creates a divide between workers on one hand, and oppressed nationalities and the poor on the other. Still the rally was a definite step forward for the people. Christie has mostly had things his way since he took office. He is meeting more and more mass opposition and will soon have a much better understanding of the power of the people.