Tag Archive: unions

Labor Day. Every Day.

There are many, many issues that affect working families and individuals were addressed, but on Labor Day, let’s talk about labor, collective bargaining and the right to organize. An organized workforce and the ability to engage in collective bargaining and…
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Pen/Ben Court Hearing at 10:00 am AND Christie Introduces a Distraction

<<10:30 am The hearing webcast should be appearing here shortly in a Windows Media Player.>>

The N. J. Supreme Court will hear oral arguments today on the Pen/Ben case starting at about 10:00 am at the Hughes Justice Complex, 25 Market St., Trenton. Do not expect to find seating unless you have already reserved it. To watch online you can access the live webcast at njcourts.com starting at 10 am. Other outlets will also likely broadcast the hearings.  

On the evening before the court’s hearing, which includes whether the State must make an additional payment of about $1.6 billion into the the pension fund by June 30, Gov. Christie’s office issued a statement. “Encouraging state revenues might provide another $200 million to pump into the public worker pension system this year.” The timing of this announcement seems quite convenient and not coincidental. It makes for a nice headline, but it will not distract the court from the merits of the case. The $200 million is only a small piece of what is due, and “might provide” does not mean “will provide.”

The statement is based on the Tax Collection Report of March 31, 2015 which indicates year to date collections at $18.4 billion are 5.3% above last year. That is good news. However, the report goes on to project revenue for the year at $32.6 billion (a 5.3% increase) which may or may not fully materialize. To achieve the projection revenue for the year, $14.2 billion would have to be collected in the last three months. Such is not impossible as amounts due on income tax are often not paid until April 15 or later. However, with such a large sum due in a few months, any projection is highly speculative.

In effect it is still too early to determine whether $200 million more will be available, and it’s irrelevant to main issue. The issue before the court is the constitutionality of the Pen/Ben law and what payment plan the State must follow. Good try, Governor Christie.

Unions present their case to the NJ Supreme Court

In a battle royale with huge stakes in late February the NJ Superior Court upheld the unions’ claim of pension contract impairment. It ruled that the governor had to make a full contribution to the pension fund by adding an additional $1.6 billion to the fund by June 30, 2015. Governor Christie first appealed the decision to the NJ Appellate Court and then asked the the NJ Supreme Court to intervene, to which it agreed. The case now before the Supreme Court focuses on whether the Superior Court’s award remains binding. Gov. Christie is hoping he will get a pass while the unions hope he will not. In the meantime Christie has sought delay and has not engaged with the legislature on a solution, so the unions continue to insist on the full payment per the 2011 law agreed to by both parties.

In the State’s brief to the Appellate Court on March 31 it argues that the Superior Court’s “contrivance of a constitutional right to billions of dollars in annual appropriations trespasses on the Legislature’s power to appropriate, the Governor’s constitutional veto power, and the constitutional right of citizens to ratify or reject all legislative decisions that purport to bind future legislatures and taxpayers with regard to appropriations. The constitution makes no provision for judicial participation in the annual budget process. The decision cripples the State’s ability to deal with pressing societal needs. Now by calling a statutory right “contractual” any given legislature may evade constitutional limits on its power and bind its successors in perpetuity. As time goes by more of the State’s budget will be frozen in this way.”

The unions’ response appears below the fold.

The Supreme Court assumes jurisdiction over the Pen/Ben case

Suspense over the court’s decision regarding Pen/Ben has just been ratcheted up a notch. Superior Court Judge Mary Jacobson had ruled in February that Christie broke the law when he reduced payment for the system in the current budget by $1.6 billion. She also ordered the governor and legislature to find a solution. Christie first appealed the ruling to the Appellate Court and more recently asked the N. J. Supreme Court to intervene.

Today the Supreme Court  announced it would assume jurisdiction over the case. It set May 6 for oral arguments. The Plaintiffs (unions and others) must present their briefs by April 20 and the Defendant (the State) must submit its brief in response by April 24.

There has been no apparent solution from the governor and the legislature working together. The governor argues the court erred and Democratic leadership wants the governor to make a full payment. With a decision in May there would only be a few weeks to remove $1.6 billion from the current budget if the court were to make such an order. Whether the legislature and governor could reach some compromise acceptable to the court is unclear.

What do you think the Supreme Court will rule?


12 public education facts ‘reformers’ don’t want you to know

Cross-posted with Marie Corfield. Promoted by Rosi.

In two previous posts (here, here), I discussed the ways education ‘reformers’ use savvy advertising and marketing to sell the unsuspecting public the notion that US schools are failing, teachers are ‘bad’ and unions are akin to The Walking Dead.

How many of you have heard radio commercials for the math tutoring center, Mathnazium? For the record, I know nothing about this company. I’m not claiming they do anything other than tutor students in math. They may very well be doing an excellent job. If that’s the case, more power to them. But, they are a business looking to make a profit, so their advertising has to appeal to parental fears, and make promises of success. I don’t have an audio clip of their NY market radio spots, but the ones I’ve heard make simplistic claims about US math PISA scores-similar to the graphic below-to make it sound like our schools are failing kids in math education.

Screen Shot 2015-02-15 at 1.56.11 PM

Daily Beast Article; How Public Sector Unions Divide the Democrats

A few days ago 12/29/2014 a article entitled How Public Sector Unions Divide the Democrats…..”Paying for all those pensions inevitably means less money for parks and schools. It’s a conundrum Democrats can no longer ignore.”  was posted on the website the daily beast. (Full Article here: http://www.thedailybeast.com/a…

I think this is a good article to discuss for the meritts that that article proposes, and not blindly say “its not true” or I disagree.  There seems to be some valid points here, and not to defend 100% the Senate President and some of his colleagues with their pension reforms they passed in 2011, but maybe there was some merit to their thinking.  

The article makes a great point that Democrats particularly progressives wish to offer more services in the way of things like full day pre-k, free college education, sustainable procurement, and more, but these all come at a cost.  Unfortunately I don’t think it’s palatable for the public to consider a European approach with income tax rates around 30-40% to pay for public services, so we are left to decide what can we afford.   What has to give? Do we forgo much needed new services to pay for our obligations of the past?

Another point brought up is the concept of work rules, which I agree that there are protections that are provided to shield workers from political privy, but what about the basics of a managers right to change procedures to increase efficiency?  Do certain work rules get in the way of creating true change?

We can possibly see this in a national example of the President who came into office in 2009 with a lot of big idea’s, but in implementing those ideas some things like the healthcare exchange went wrong.  Could this be partly because of bureaucratic rules and procedures that would make anyone’s heads spin?  If so, were these rules created by managers stuck in the past or did they have more to do with the union contracts dictating work ratios and so on.

As I said in the beginning of my post, i’m not trying to skew things in one direction or another i’m only trying to have an open dialog on creating the balance of the Public Unions will and the needs of the people government is supposed to serve.