New Jersey Jumps on the Anti-Union Train

New Jersey Jumps on the Anti-Union Train

Chris Christie and New Jersey State Senate Republicans Pass Anti-Union Bill

     

Yesterday another attack on unions was made by the New Jersey State Senate in the form of a legislative bill that would hurt public employees. The bill, passed by a 24-15 majority, would significantly raise public workers contributions to healthcare premiums and pensions and suspend their ability to bargain over healthcare. In addition there is a controversial provision with the legislation that would require public workers to access only in-state healthcare. With this piece lawmaking, New Jersey joins the ranks of other state governments like Indiana, Michigan, Wisconsin, Ohio, and even Nebraska that have attempted to (or have succeeded to) trim state budgets by disempowering public workers and their unions.

     The bill, which was amended Monday to remove the controversial in-state healthcare provision, must still pass the New Jersey Assembly to become law. This provision is largely the attempt by state legislators to keep healthcare dollars in-state, a provision largely pursued by chambers of commerce and local health providers. Union leaders and many Democrats say that it limits access for public workers, and may violate constitutional rights; the rationale being that the state government should not be able to dictate to citizens where they can access their healthcare.

     This is another example of the hypocrisy of the current Republican agenda. The party advocates for free-market capitalism, yet New Jersey's Republicans are attempting to legislate how consumers behave in order to feed state coffers. The party advocates for citizens rights free of government manipulation, but then attempt to legislate their abilities to bargain with their employers. Many may argue that this limitation is of public sector, not private, but the public employees are citizens too, not indentured servants to a reactionary and vindictive tax base.

     This is not the first controversial piece of legislation that New Jersey has passed to attempt to sew up budget gaps at taxpayers expense. Two weeks ago, New Jersey followed Arizona in making catastrophic cuts to its Medicaid programs. Under the new legislation individuals would need to be making 75% of the federal poverty level or less to qualify (roughly $135 a week for a family of four). This will essentially create a larger group of working poor that will continue to be a drain on state funding through a dramatic spike in things like emergency room care.

          Ultimately, it looks as if this piece of legislation will pass in the Assembly and become law as enough Democrats in both houses have pledged to pass it. The healthcare provision may be highly controversial, but with the amendment proposed Monday and the popular public-employee pension increase, it is likely to be signed into law sometime next week. Public sector workers can plan on seeing their pension and premiums contributions rise and their take-home pay significantly dented. In addition, if the proposed amendment does not pass in Assembly many public sector workers, particularly those individuals living near state lines, will have their healthcare options limited and may need to find alternative primary care physicians and specialists.