Tag Archive: AFL-CIO

News Round-up and Open Thread for Tuesday, October 24

There’s a lot to report today, folks.

  • Environmental protection commissioner Lisa Jackson yesterday revealed plans to do a complete overhaul of Our Fair State’s $60 million cleanup program. Changes will include prioritizing the sites for cleanup, starting a licensing program for environmental consultants, and adopting programs with incentives for cleaning up sites quickly. The department is trying to fix the system after the high-profile closing of a daycare in Gloucester County which was located on contaminated soil.
  • Children and Families Commissioner Kevin Ryan reported to the Assembly Human Services Committee yesterday that new child welfare workers are getting their training but re-training existing workers is taking longer. Also, the number of kids in foster care who receive physical and psychological examinations has increased, but an overhaul of the health care system for foster children is needed and will be proposed.
  • As expected, the State Senate unanimously approved Associate Justice James Zazzali as Chief Justice of the State Supreme Court yesterday, and Judge Helen Hoens was approved to fill the associate position.
  • State Senator Ellen Karcher’s bill to curb political contributions from redevelopment contractors and professionals has received bipartisan support. Even with such support the bill may not pass, because of other ethics reform legislation being proposed.
  • State Senator Stephen Sweeney has been under fire from labor groups about his proposal to cut the benefits and pay of unionized state workers. Sweeney met with the president of the AFL-CIO earlier this month and has been defending his proposals.
  • The Legislative ethics panel met yesterday, selecting Raymond Bramucci as chairman. The panel put off a decision to investigate Wayne Bryant and his “job” at UMDNJ, citing two ongoing criminal investigations by the US and State Attorneys’ General offices.
  • Rutgers announced yesterday the formation of the Rutgers Energy Institute, which will bring together all energy-focused projects under one banner. The Institute’s long-term goal is to help break American dependence on fossil fuels, particularly those from foreign sources.
  • Speaking of alternative power sources, more residents of Our Fair State favor the use of offshore wind power than oppose them, and even more are in favor if the turbines are further away. Woo-hoo!
  • Viola Thomas-Hughes is feeling little support in her run against Frank LoBiondo. Until last week, she had received no financial support, from Dem organizations in Gloucester and Cumberland counties. In the last week Cape May Democrats and Cumberland County Dem organization have donated, with the Gloucester County Dems promising some as well. Visit her site if you can help, too.
  • New Jersey is a tough place for military recruiters; only Connecticut and Rhode Island have lower recruiting percentages. Officials and researchers blame the lack of interaction between military folks and civilians in Our Fair State, while some recruiters directly blame the Iraq war.

Open Thread: What’s on your mind today, Blue Jersey?

American hero campaigning for Menendez

Today I got to shake the hand of a real American hero:  former Ambassador Joe Wilson.  He’s campaigning with Senator Menendez, and appeared with him at the NJ AFL-CIO Retirees Legislative Conference in Edison before going on to the rally at Rutgers. 

Menendez, of course, was terrific–he always is.  He is so right on the issues that matter–and Junior is so wrong–that it’s clear we must make sure he stays in the Senate!

One of the things that struck me at the AFL-CIO conference was that even before Ambassador Wilson entered the room, Senator Menendez said he had brought with him a man whose wife was outed as a CIA agent by Rove & Co.  The audience–several hundred strong–stood up and cheered, even before Senator Menendez had finished his introduction:  they got it right away. 

I hope the Rutgers event got good press and TV coverage, and I hope Joe Wilson continues to campaign for our Democratic candidates.  We need more heroes willing to stand up and speak truth to power! 

News Round-up for Thursday, June 15

  • New Quinnipiac poll released this morning: Senator Robert Menendez is leading Tom Kean JUNIOR 43-36%, up from 40-34% in the last Quinnipiac poll done in April. Senator Lautenberg has a 44% approval rate in the poll; Bush, 28% approve while 69% disapprove.
  • The Federal Government yesterday filed lawsuits against Attorney General Zulima Farber and other state officials to stop legal procedings aimed at getting Verizon, AT&T and other telephone companies to reveal the extent of their compliance with the NSA’s request for phone records without a court order. Farber issued subpeonas to the phone carriers in May; the deadline to respond is today.
  • Gov. Corzine campaigned on the creation of an elected state comptroller; now, he says he’d agree to an independent, appointed one. An elected official would require a constitutional ammendment, but an appointed position may not and therefore be easier to achieve.
  • At an AFL-CIO convention in Atlantic City yesterday, Corzine said he’d reject State Senator Steve Sweeney’s call for $700 million in pay and benefit cuts by state workers. The Senator proposed the cuts as a means to avoid the increase in sales tax. Sweeney is an official with an ironworkers union; building and trade unions have defended his proposal.
  • The Governor is optimistic that his budget will be passed by the end of the month, largely intact. (Well, I’m glad he’s optimistic, but I’ll wait and see what really happens.)
  • A report released yesterday by the Association for Children of New Jersey shows that child welfare system in Our Fair State has had “some progress” in protecting children but “still has a long way to go.” Any progress in improving our system is a good thing. Unfortunately, there has been no increase in foster homes, despite recruiting drives.
  • The Department of Corrections will once again allow prisoners to be interviewed by news media. Interview requests were reviewed on a case-by-case basis until a decision five months ago to cease interviews; the Department plans to return to this policy.
  • A national sweep of illegal immigrant gang members, violent criminals and fugitives has netted more than 60 suspects in New Jersey. Many will be deported but some will face criminal charges.
  • I keep wondering when they’ll fix that obnoxious pothole right in front of my home; unfortunately, it might not be anytime soon. Asphalt prices are up substantially, and the DOT as well as local and county governments are re-evaluating road repair and construction projects in face of rising costs.

Showdown at the State House as Legislators launch website

Continuing the push they began last week to cut state employee compensation by 15%, State Senator Stephen M. Sweeney (D-3rd LD), State Assemblyman Jerry Green (D-22nd LD) and State Assemblyman Paul Moriarty (D-4th LD) launched a web campaign www.StopSpendingMyMoney.com, and according to their press release, “the website is aimed at educating Garden State taxpayers about the need to overhaul excessive state government employee compensation deals and to fight a proposed increase in the state sales tax.”

“It’s time for the taxpaying public to get the sad but true facts about runaway state government at their expense,” said Sweeney, a Business Agent and Treasurer of Ironworkers Local 399 in Westville.  “Our goal is to create our own citizen army to push our agenda forward beyond traditional means.  We are also taking our case directly to millions of New Jersey taxpayers through our own e-campaign.”

According to Newsday the legislators were confronted by an “incensed” CWA President Carla Katz and demonstrators,

The 150 demonstrators attracted state troopers who repeatedly asked them to keep hallways and stairs clear and empty a meeting room jammed with people. The union members complied, but remained incensed.

“This is an unfair attack on middle-class working families,” said Carla Katz, the president of Communications Workers of America Local 1034.  When the legislators arrived, the protesters booed and shouted “Shame” and “Shame on Sweeney,” a South Jersey ironworker union official.

The Legislators pointed out that according to the Office of Legislative Services, state employee salaries and benefits account for 73.6%, or $4.6 billion, of the state’s real operating budget. The benefits alone account for a mind-boggling 40% of total compensation.

Unions are involved on both sides of this battle with the the AFL-CIO issuing a scathing release opposing the plan, prompting responses from the 125,000 member strongBuilding Trades Council President Mullen and the Carpenters Chief Frank Spencer supporting the initiatives and blasting back at the personal attacks on Sweeney in the release. 

“The AFL-CIO’s recent public criticisms of him (Sweeney) are both misguided and quite frankly, uncalled for.  I support Senator Sweeney and his efforts to bring progressive solutions to the budget crisis to the table,” said Spencer.