Unions Worry Christie Will Keep Promises When He Takes Office

christie win 2Gov.-elect Chris Christie ran as no pushover to organized labor — pledging to be an “adversary” to unions and publicly fending off chances for endorsements. And labor did everything it could to keep the Republican out of the governor’s office, deploying thousands of volunteers to knock on doors and work phone banks in hopes of re-electing outgoing Gov. Jon Corzine, widely viewed as a champion of labor. Now, still reeling from the disappointment of Christie’s win, unions are hoping the heated rhetoric of the campaign will be left on the trail. There is a lot at stake for unions — particularly for state workers vulnerable in a tough budget year — and they’re scrambling to play nice with a new governor who might not need their support at all.

“They hit him with everything but the kitchen sink — or everything and the kitchen sink — and he won,” said state Sen. Stephen Sweeney (D-Gloucester), an ironworker who has said the state needs concessions from workers. “They can’t threaten him (by saying) ‘We’re going to beat you next time.’”

Christie inherits a state with a budget already $8 billion in the hole and looking worse by the week. On the campaign trail, he pledged to be a tough negotiator, pushing for workers to pay a part of their health care and saying only full-time employees should be eligible for health benefits and pensions. He also railed against the size of state government.

Union leaders want Christie to realize workers’ value to the state.

“We hope he’s going to give up his anti-state-worker rhetoric that he used throughout the campaign and realize that slashing jobs and services would be bad for the state’s economy,” said Hetty Rosenstein, director of the Communications Workers of America of New Jersey, which represents about 55,000 government workers.

Unions worry Christie might try to reverse some of what Corzine crowed about, such as paid family leave, which allows paid time off for workers caring for a new baby or sick relative. Although Corzine over the summer reached a no-layoff agreement with state workers that the CWA says is irreversible, Christie said he is not bound to honor it.

Other issues, such as raising the minimum wage, might not see the light of day, Sweeney said.

The depth of antagonism remains to be seen, but Christie turned his first post-election public appearance into a rallying cry for urban students he said had been failed by a spendthrift school system.

“I’m not going to continue to allow urban children to be failed and cheated by failing public schools,” he said Wednesday at Newark’s Robert Treat Academy charter school. “If you think I’m kidding about this issue, then you haven’t learned a thing about me over the last eight years.”

Christie said the New Jersey Education Association, which spent millions on ads against him, proved to be less effective than union leaders hoped, though he said the foes of his brand of education reform — which includes school vouchers — are “significant and powerful.”

“Change will come,” he said. “What form that change will take is going to be a product of how well we make our case.”

NJEA spokesman Steven Baker said it was too soon to judge Christie.

“I’m hesitant to begin ranking him,” he said. “Certainly we’re going to be watching, we’re going to be monitoring.”

The agenda of construction unions might be closer in line with a pro-business Christie administration, said Bill Mullen, president of the New Jersey State Building & Construction Trades Council.

“We need the state to grow and expand to put our people to work,” he said.

Mullen said he was wary of some of Christie’s positions, including a pledge to do away with so-called “project labor agreements” that extend existing contracts during a fight with management for the length of the job.

But he said unions have a powerful ally in the Democratic Legislature.

“Without the control of the Legislature, he probably can’t do anything,” Mullen said. Star Ledger.

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  1. unions are corrupting out officials and theis great country. They must be put in their place but elected officials are afraid to touch them. The elected official gets an endorsement form a union and then they don’t care about the taxpayer. A good example is the teacher union. Many times the teachers get ridiculous benfits and the student losses out.

  2. get rid of the union prevaling wages which can be over $60 an hour total per person when any services are needed at a school and the schools would not have such a deficit. for example if one orders furniture and would need it installed/assembled for the school or set up in the room -its prevailaing wage.

    Every new school building is prevailing wage. Now you know why it costs so much to build new schools and the waste of educational dollars to the unions who are excessivily being paid. its a mafia.

    Many professionals dont make that much- why should union laborers, carpenters.

  3. the unions have been blackmailing us and bankrupting this country for way too long . its time to fight back . the unions initially began as a good thing but now they have turned way too extrme and really were the ones that put obama in power for their own benefit go christy go

  4. If Christie gets the unions under control I”ll vote for him President! They are bankrupting the country and they are responsible for the Detroit mess as when it came time to negotiate they actually won over the government so GM could not be restructured properly.

  5. Lakewood’s Mayor-Senator Singer (Republican) says we can’t reduce salaries, benefits, etc because of the UNION, GET RID OF THE UNION!

  6. When the State adopts the change in law that Cedarbrige can have a zoning change, they should adopt legislation that even when there is a Union in place it can be abbolished. Lower Lakewood’s tax burden.

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