NJEA President Barbara Keshishian issued this statement following the Assembly’s passage of legislation that diminishes collective bargaining for public employees and reduces pensions for current and future retirees:
“Today marks a new low point in the attack on New Jersey’s school employees and other public workers. With their action today, the 46 Assembly members who voted ‘yes’ sent a clear message that their promises aren’t worth the paper they are written on.
“By stripping even currently retired public employees of their promised and earned cost-of-living adjustments, these legislators signaled that no promise they make should ever be believed by any New Jersey voter.
“Retirees who count on their pensions for a modest level of security after a lifetime of public service will suffer because of today’s vote. NJEA will challenge these illegal actions in court. We cannot and will not allow this outrageous raid on retirees’ pension checks to stand. This pension raid would reduce many retired workers’ pensions by 40% or more by the end of their lives.
“A legislature and governor who will raid the pension checks of retirees and the paychecks of middle-class workers but lack the courage or integrity to ask the very wealthy to share the sacrifice of even a modest tax increase are not the representatives of the people who elected them.
“Politicians who think it is acceptable to ask middle-class families to pay $5,000 more out of pocket for drastically reduced benefits but refuse to ask a $5,000 sacrifice from taxpayers earning $750,000 a year have failed in their obligation to represent the interests of all their constituents.
“Elected leaders who say they support collective bargaining but vote to undermine it as severely as this legislation does cannot be trusted or believed any longer when they claim to stand for the values and principles that working-class voters hold dear.
“Today’s vote was a victory for those who believe that America’s widening wealth gap and its growing preference for the wealthy over the working class are good for America. For those of us who believe that democracy belongs to all voters, regardless of their wealth, today serves as a call to take back our government by joining forces with elected leaders and those who aspire to office who truly believe in fairness, honesty and genuine collaboration.
“We salute the 32 brave Assemblywomen and Assemblymen who opposed this attack on the middle class, as well as the 16 honorable Senators who did the same earlier this week. The 200,000 members of the New Jersey Education Association will not forget the courage and integrity they demonstrated throughout this process.”