S2937, the Christie-Sweeney plan to dramatically alter collective bargaining rights in New Jersey, passed the Senate this afternoon 24-15. The Assembly version – A4133, as introduced by Lou Greenwald (D) and Declan O’Scanlon (R) – is next, first in Assembly Budget (which Greenwald chairs), then to the full Assembly for a vote. Gov. Christie will almost certainly sign it into law if it reaches his desk. Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver, who has pushed this bill despite a body that may not be warm to it, said “bold, demonstrative large steps” are what’s needed now.
Listen LIVE to the Assembly Budget hearing.
Labor – CWA Political Director Bob Masters told the Assembly minutes ago that “real Democrats” would have killed this bill. Charlie Wowkanech, NJ AFL-CIO President said, “Where labor has no voice, democracy has no future.”
Gov. Christie owes Steve Sweeney – Senate President, Democrat and ‘union man’ – a great deal for introducing and championing this bill. Its motive and agenda is largely Republican, as any student of current events can see. And Sweeney is choosing to use his position in the Senate to ram home legislation that threatens the long tradition of pubic employee labor having the power of collective bargaining negotiation to help determine working conditions, a fundamental of the Party he leads.
As 12mileseastofTrenton notes, Sweeney’s own caucus voted against him 2-1, and the calls for his ouster as Senate President may grow louder.
The Norcross Provision As we noted earlier, the Senate bill was amended today to remove a much-disputed and cost-ineffective provision to limit public workers’ access to out-of-state medical care. But Assemblyman Greenwald appears interested in restricting public worker medical care to inside-Jersey, a highly debatable concept given for example that of the top 50 cancer hospitals in the U.S., none is in New Jersey. The part of the bill snidely referred to as the “Norcross provision” comes about as New Jerseyans calculate who might have stood to benefit from this legislation, or at least that part of it. Several of the world’s best hospitals in the world are just outside New Jersey’s borders, in NYC and in Philadelphia. Norcross, Sweeney’s benefactor and South Jersey Democratic Party boss, is Chair of Cooper Hospital in Camden, which has recently stepped up advertising to compete with premiere hospitals in Philadelphia. Restricting public workers to NJ facilities would certainly have boosted traffic to Cooper, and the fact that the provision would have furthered Sweeney’s benefactor’s interests added to the sense that this was payback to Sweeney’s benefactor for Sweeney’s monumental effort to ram this home against a rich ethical tradition of his own Party.
Here’s how they voted in the Senate:
S. Kean (R)
T. Kean (R)
Van Drew (D)