Hundreds of public sector employees descended on the Statehouse Monday to express support for the right to collectively bargain and opposition to Gov. Chris Christie’s refusal to negotiate certain aspects of their contracts.
Members of several unions, including the N.J. Education Association, the Communications Workers of America, and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees lined the basement corridors of the Statehouse greeting passing lawmakers and hoping for a meeting during the day with Sen. Steve Sweeney, whose proposed health care legislation is also a concern for them.
Among other things, members of NJEA were concerned with Christie’s attempt to have teachers shoulder the blame for the state’s budget problems.
According to several educators at the Statehouse Monday, including retired teacher Barbara Haase, benefits expenses will account for $1.9 billion, or approximately just 7 percent, of the proposed budget.
“The governor has made it out that we’re the cause of all of the state’s problems,’’ she said. “It’s being blown way out of proportion.”
Debbie Droke, a teacher in the Williamstown schools, said the other key issue is opposition to Christie’s preference to legislate, not negotiate.
She said that for schools, in particular, the key decisions should be made at the local level, not mandated from the corridors of power in Trenton.