In a stinging criticism of Gov. Chris Christie and the New Jersey State Legislature, the Jewish Labor Committee called bills curtailing collective bargaining and cutting pension and welfare benefits a “blow to all working families.”
On June 23, NJ lawmakers approved legislation to increase state and local workers’ contributions to health insurance and pensions and to curb the unions’ contract bargaining rights.
“This legislation is about nothing more than politics and will not help put the state’s economy back on track,” wrote Martin Schwartz, the JLC’s executive director, in a statement.
Schwartz, a Cranford resident, estimated that “the cuts in health-care benefits will only save about $10 million in the first year…and [do] nothing to bring down the rising costs of health care.”
The JLC also objected to legislation that would curtail the ability of public employees to bargain collectively over their health care benefits.
As “a Jewish organization,” wrote Schwartz, “we know that for many of us, our parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents struggled 100 years ago to ensure that we could achieve a better life through collective bargaining. What this is really about is nothing more than further weakening unions by stripping their workers of the fundamental right of collective bargaining.”
But Jack Schrier, a longtime Republican officeholder who has been active in the Jewish community, believes the austerity programs and crackdown on union members “are absolutely on the right track.”
“What is overlooked in the debate is the taxpayer,” Schrier said in a June 24 phone interview. “What Christie is trying to do is restore the balance and let the taxpayer get some attention.”
In a June 24 phone interview, Schrier told NJ Jewish News that the limitations on collective bargaining and the increases in state workers’ contributions to pensions and medical insurance are “a way to restore the balance for the people who have not paid enough into their pension plans and medical insurance. In every imbalanced situation, the scales inevitably get weighted on one side, and when that happens, there is a restoration in the other direction. That is what is happening here.”