New Jersey Lawmakers Approve Benefits Rollback for Work Force
This is a stunning development in NJ, a HIGHLY Democratic state with union membership among the highest in the country. Though the article doesn't mention it, my understanding is that a critical factor in the unions' massive defeat is that the teachers' union tried to bully legislators (as it always does) over a relatively small matter, but this time ended up alienating them, which led to the defections and, ultimately, today's defeat. Hopefully the message will go out to teachers unions across the country that the days when they could bully everyone and cow them into submission are gone and that they'd better develop a whole new attitude (but I'm not holding my breath…):
New Jersey lawmakers on Thursday approved a broad rollback of benefits for 750,000 government workers and retirees, the deepest cut in state and local costs in memory, in a major victory for Gov. Chris Christie and a once-unthinkable setback for the state's powerful public employee unions.
The Assembly passed the bill 46 to 32, as Republicans and a few Democrats defied raucous protests by thousands of people whose chants, vowing electoral revenge, shook the State House. Leaders in the State Senate said their chamber, which had already passed a slightly different version of the bill, would approve the Assembly version on Monday. Mr. Christie, a Republican, was expected to sign the measure into law quickly.
In a statement released after the vote, Mr. Christie said, "We are putting the people first and daring to touch the third rail of politics in order to bring reform to an unsustainable system."
The legislation will sharply increase what state and local workers must contribute for their health insurance and pensions, suspend cost-of-living increases to retirees' pension checks, raise retirement ages and curb the unions' contract bargaining rights. It will save local and state governments $132 billion over the next 30 years, by the administration's estimate, and give the troubled benefit systems a sounder financial footing, mostly by shifting costs onto workers.
While states around the country have moved to pare labor costs and limit the power of unions, the move is all the more striking here, in a Democratic-leaning state where Democrats control both houses of the Legislature and union membership is among the highest in the country. Most Democratic legislators opposed the benefits reductions, but their leaders voted in favor of the changes, exposing deep, longstanding rifts in the party that lawmakers say could weaken it in coming elections.