TRENTON – Lee Saunders, secretary-treasurer of AFSCME, which represents 1.6 million workers nationwide, said to the crowd of thousands outside the Statehouse: “We stand with you in solidarity.”
The policies enacted by many politicians, whom he described as “bought and paid for,” are “forcing working families to a race to the bottom.”
“We are not backing down,” he said. We are standing Up. We got to fight back!”
“One day longer, one day stronger,” he chanted.
Assemblywoman Linda Stender made no secret of where she stands on the proposal.
“I will not support it. I’m here to stand with you,” she told the boisterous crowd that routinely broke out into chants of “Kill the bill!’’
She blamed the problems of the recession on big business and the Republican Party.
“We have got to stand back up and fight,” she said.
While a representative of Treasurer Andrew Sidamon-Eristoff testified the pension and benefits reform would save $10 million in the first year, Hetty Rosenstein said the proposal offered by CWA earlier this year would have saved, by her claim, $200 million.
The rally highlighted the divisions within the Democratic Party, with two Bergen County legislators in support of the unions calling themselves “Real Democrats.”
Sen. Bob Gordon (D-Bergen County) said the struggle is akin to past civil rights fights in Montgomery and Birmingham, Ala. He said he will not support legislation “that strips the civil rights of fellow Americans.”
Assemblywoman Connie Wagner (D-38) of Paramus, declared “I’m a real Democrat. I will defend collective bargaining.”
She said the proposed legislation makes the Garden State one state closer to being a “right to work state.”
“This is not where New Jersey needs to go,” she said. “I will stand with you all the way. Now you stand with us.”