Calling it an attempt to throw out collective bargaining rights, leaders of New Jersey’s public workers unions Monday said they will launch a full court press against a bill sponsored by Senate President Stephen Sweeney that would force public employees to pay more for their health care benefits.Anything above the current 1.5% they're paying and they come absolutely unglued. Is it any wonder they're not receiving an ounce of sympathy from those of us in the private sector who pay a much higher percentage?
Hetty Rosenstein, state director for the Communication Workers of America, said her union would picket, extract pledges from lawmakers to oppose it and hold "lobby days" against the bill (S2718) over the next several weeks.
"It becomes illegal to negotiate anything different than what’s in that bill," said Rosenstein. "It preempts all collectively bargaining."
Bill Lavin, president of the state Firefighters Mutual Benevolent Association, said police and firefighters will protest it at a Statehouse rally Thursday and press all 120 lawmakers.
"It’s totally unacceptable. I think if that were to pass, it will guarantee that the Democrats will lose the majority," he said. "We’re shocked that Steve Sweeney, who calls himself a Democrat, would act in this manner ... He’s rolled over for the governor in every instance."
The pushback comes as the legislation has gained bipartisan support in the state Senate, with Jennifer Beck (R-Monmouth) signing on as a prime sponsor.
Public employees pay 1.5 percent of their salaries towards their health benefits. Under Sweeney’s plan and a proposal by Gov. Chris Christie, workers would pay a portion of their premiums instead and would have more plans to choose from.
Under Christie’s plan, public workers would pay 30 percent of their premiums within three years. Under Sweeney’s, they would pay a sliding scale based on income, with the highest earners eventually paying 30 percent. Christie’s plan would require current retirees to pay part of their premiums.
"I understand people being emotional, but we really have to be fair with people. We’ve got to be fair with taxpayers," said Sweeney, who denied the bill was an attempt to eliminate collective bargaining. "I’m the guy that did paid family leave. I’m the one that did the minimum wage (increase). I’m absolutely pro-worker."
By the way, when the shrill Ms. Rosenstein follows through on her promise to hold "lobby days," let's just hope her people don't leave seniors and dialysis patients stranded again.