For much of Chris Christie’s early term, the building trade unions have had a pretty good relationship with him. Exhibit A: Revel, in which Christie teamed up with the building trades and contributed hundreds of millions of public funds to build the new casino, all over the objections of HERE Local 54, the union representing the casino workers in AC that Revel has turned a cold shoulder to in such great acts as trying to figure out how to only hire waitresses as long as they are deemed attractive.
Was yesterday Chris Christie’s PATCO moment? I’m not talking the train that runs from South Jersey into Philly (for the record, that is called the “Speedline”). I’m talking about the moment when Ronald Reagan, who claimed to support unions during the 1980 presidential campaign, and even got some endorsements, busted the air traffic controllers’ union by hiring scabs to replace them. Even after that union had endorsed him. The New York Times called it “the strike that busted unions.”
It came to light yesterday that the New Jersey Department of Labor is gutting the BUILD program, which provides job training for women and people of color getting into the building trades. Just last year Christie labor commissioner Harold Wirths made the announcement of $760,000 in grants a major part of his speech at the building trades convention. But as of yesterday, it became apparent that Christie was grabbing $6 million from the program to help fund his tax cut for millionaires. Props to Sen. Weinberg et al for seizing upon this issue and promoting using the money for women’s health care (though we should be able to do BOTH) – see prior link – and to Asm. Vincent Prieto for following up today on both this and another jobs program Christie cut.
At the end of the day, the modern Republican Party is simply against unions. And as Christie’s star rises, he will keep moving in that direction, much as Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels, who once said he did not favor a so-called “right to work” bill, reversed himself when the opportunity came.
Christie promised public servants in 2009 that he wouldn’t cut their pension. We saw how long that lasted. Does anyone really believe that, on his road to national Republican stardom, the building trades won’t be the next casualty?