On Thursday, New Jersey became the latest state to pass a bill ending collective bargaining rights for public workers, handing a major victory to Republican Gov. Chris Christie, and the latest in a string of defeats for unions.
New Jersey’s pension overhaul (read the state senate version here), could push up to 35 percent of health costs onto the state’s 500,000-plus police officers, firefighters, teachers and other public workers, raises the retirement age from 60 to 65 and includes up to $6,000 in pay cuts for many employees, while ending cost of living increases for retirees. Despite massive protests outside the New Jersey statehouse, it was pushed through with the support, and in some cases, the leadership, of Democrats in the state assembly, producing a classic case of strange bedfellows.
New Jersey is only the latest state to go this route. Wisconsin’s epic union battle was the most high profile fight, but similar fights have taken place across the country, including in:
Florida – where unions beat back the most egregious anti-union measures this year, including an attempt to end the state’s ability to automatically deduct dues, but where teachers and other public workers, now including the state’s Police Benevolent Association, are now suing Republican Gov. Rick Scott to try and roll back an increase in their pension contribution that amounts to a 5 percent pay cut.
Ohio – where an anti-union bill was passed and signed by Republican Gov. John Kasich that makes Wisconsin’s draconian measure look tame by comparison. The Ohio bill ends collective bargaining over healthcare and pensions for all public workers, including police officers and firefighters, who were exempted under Wisconsin’s version.
Michigan’s Republican governor, Rick Snyder, has literally declared “financial martial law” over that state, with Republicans granting him the power to appoint unelected “emergency financial managers” with the unilateral power to liquidate union contracts, schools or even entire towns.
In New Hampshire, unions beat back a so-called “right to work” law that would have gutted private sector unions there, with the help of Democratic Gov. John Lynch’s veto pen. Republicans failed to override his veto, but they’re expected to try again, perhaps by special session. Right to work laws are currently being teed up in about 18 states.
Pennsylvania’s Republican governor, Tom Corbett, is choosing to negotiate with state unions rather than taking the confrontational approach of other GOP governors, and those negotiations, over requested pay cuts and benefit rollbacks continue. Corbett is making up for the willingness to negotiate on pensions and pay with a record gutting of that state’s education system, and he’s seeking the power to more easily furlough teachers.