The GOP wants to bog Senate Majority Leader Barbara Buono, (D-18), Metuchen, down in a district race, but the prominent Middlesex Democrat has other plans, as she focuses on statewide presence Gov. Chris Christie and an ongoing stirke with widescale implications.
Buono wants Christie to arbitrate the labor dispute between Verizon Communications and the 7,000 New Jersey workers in its wireline division, represented by the Communications Workers of America and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers.
To that end, the potential future Democratic gubernatorial candidate wrote a letter today to the governor requesting him to use his influence to help resolve the fight.
“With New Jersey’s unemployment rate already above the national average, there is extra urgency to protecting middle-class jobs, which are the backbone of our state’s economy,” Buono wrote.
“A prolonged strike will mean reduced tax revenues for the state, increased strain on the public safety net, and less stability in an already shaky housing market,” Buono wrote. “In other words, this labor dispute is no longer a private affair. It has profound implications that demand your immediate intercession.”
The workers launched their strike earlier this month after talks broke down with Verizon, which wants worker concessions. Specifically, according to news reports, Verizon wants to tie pay increases to performance review and require union workers to contribute to health-plan premiums. They want to freeze pensions at the end of the year, eliminate the sickness and death benefit program, and cut sickness disability benefits.
“I am particularly dismayed to learn that Verizon is threatening to suspend the health and medical benefits for all striking workers,” Buono wrote. “Regardless of your position on the merits of the larger dispute, clearly this measure will cost the state a great deal of money. Verizon employees and their families will have no choice but to use emergency room services to replace primary care, which will stretch our already depleted charity-care budget to the breaking point; or they will apply for taxpayer-funded assistance programs.”
Buono’s point is that taxpayers would be forced to subsidize the company’s negotiating tactics.
“It is imperative that you walk Verizon back from a position that is both cruel and costly, and which threatens the budgets of New Jersey hospitals,” the Senate majority leader wrote.