Union leaders responded Thursday to reports about a deal offered to them last week by Senate President Steve Sweeney and Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver in exchange for support of the controversial pension and benefits reform bill up for final vote in the Assembly.
“Last Wednesday afternoon, Sweeney asked us to publicly support a bill that would have set a worthless salary premium cap on an undefined ‘lowest cost’ health care plan,’ said a joint statement from the leaders of CWA, AFSCME, AFT and IFPTE. “His so-called plan did not specify deductibles, coverage, co-pays, or any details to indicate that public workers choosing this option would receive anything more than bare-bones, catastrophic coverage. Instead, Sweeney proposed that these details be worked out by health care committee that might not include representatives from our unions with the final authority for deciding the plan belonging to the State Treasurer.”
Calling the offer “worthless” and “ill-defined” the union brass said no union leader in America would have accepted the deal.
The leaders said throughout the conversations with Sweeney and Oliver, they had one overriding concern: “a real statewide healthcare bargaining table to hammer out the details of health care coverage, and an affordable health care option for public workers that provided quality care, especially for children.”
That was not offered to them, they said.
Later in the week, the union leaders were approached by a different cadre of legislators, which included State Sen. Loretta Weinberg and State Democratic Chairman Assemblyman John Wisniewski.
The offer from the unions made at that time was later rejected by Sweeney on Sunday and Oliver on Monday, the union leaders said. Earlier this week, Weinberg said the deal fell apart because the two sides “ran out of time,” while sources told PolitickerNJ the negotiations were scuttled by the unions.
“Sen. Sweeney and Speaker Oliver have betrayed Democratic values, and are now misleading the public and their fellow Democrats about what they have done,” the statement said. “The simple truth is that Sen. Sweeney and Speaker Oliver never made a good faith offer. We wish to express our great appreciation to the true Democrats who throughout this debate have supported collective bargaining in New Jersey. We remain willing to negotiate even now. “