Not a single no vote.
Despite lobbying against the three pension reform bills that passed the senate today, the public workers’ unions could not convince a single senator to vote against any of them.
Three senators abstained, and a fourth was absent.
Does that reflect waning influence of the Communications Workers of America (CWA), which represents 60,000 public workers in New Jersey?
“I wouldn’t say that,” said CWA Legislative and Political Director Bob Master. “I think that right now there is enormous anger and frustration out there in the public. The economy is stagnating. Unemployment is at record levels. Property taxes have continued to go up. There are some people in the legislature who believe that by pointing their finger at state workers, they can score political points with a very angry, volatile electorate.”
Master said that the 36 senators succumbed to “sound bite politics” by voting on bills that they did not fully understand.
“People were afraid to say ‘Stop. Let’s look at this for a minute and see what the actual impact is going to be.’”
To give one quick example, Master said that allowing new employees to opt out of the pension system undermines it for everyone by taking away a revenue stream.
“That undermines the future of the pension plan for the current workforce,” he said.
Monmouth University pollster Patrick Murray would not count the unions’ influence out, but noted that the vote “does signal a new era in Trenton.”
But Murray said the vote in the assembly will not be such a breeze, even though he expects the bills to pass there as well.
“It’s not over yet. It was pretty much considered to be a done deal in the senate, and I think the senators saw the writing on the wall,” he said. “The fight’s going to be in the assembly. That’s where it’s going to be interesting to see. That’s where the CWA is going to have some sway.”