TRENTON – Organized labor’s iconic giant rat – the symbol it frequently uses during large demonstrations – stood outside the Statehouse Annex with a sign reading “pension Betrayal.”
If that didn’t underscore the collective sentiments of the thousands who were gathering outside the Statehouse today for the Communication Workers of America rally a little after 9 a.m., there was an unflattering drawing of Gov. Chris Christie wearing devil ears, with the likeness of a campaign poster, reading Christie for ex governor.
There were other colorful signs and T-shirts with clever sayings, such as “Christie + Sweeney=Walker” and “Act Like Real Democrats.”
One group, paying a nod to former Gov. Tom Kean’s popular tourism slogan from the 1980s, read “Christie and Sweeney Perfect Together.”
The workers gathered by the thousands in protest of the proposed overhaul of pension and health care benefits. Inside the Statehouse, that bill was receiving its first public airing in the Senate Budget Committee.
There were firefighters from Hamilton and members from American Federation of Teachers and AFSCME, among several other groups, as the workers trickled in while some blue-collar populist-themed rock and country music blared from the speakers.
One of those participants was Eric McKenzie, a care worker at the North Jersey Developmental Disabilities Center in Totowa.
“I’m feeling quite angry right now. As a state worker with a family, I’ll be unable to afford my son’s college education. The cost of health care will set me back.”
Holding a sign reading “New Jersey United for Retirement Security,” McKenzie also lamented the higher pension contributions that are being called for in the new agreement.
“I paid my share. It’s time the state does the same.