Despite the ongoing threat of rain, more than 1,000 NJEA and NJREA members from around the state descended upon Trenton today to join the Communications Workers of America (CWA) in a rally to compel the Legislature to pass a fair and responsible budget which would include a Millionaires Tax. The CWA organized the rally to avoid a potential government shutdown, should legislators fail to agree to a budget before June 30.
As busload after busload disembarked, members filled the streets to stand with their CWA union colleagues to send a clear message of unity. As the crowd swelled into the street, speaker after speaker demanded justice for public employees.
“Today, I stand in POWER with you as we stand together for a budget that New Jersey deserves and that schools that our children – ALL children – deserve,” said NJEA President Marie Blistan amid cheers from the crowd. “We are ready to roll up our sleeves. But we refuse to roll over if any legislator tries to take away what we have earned and what we deserve! So, as educators and ALL public employees who are the backbone of the middle class and the backbone of this state, we stand together. We are one.”
Rally goers also used the opportunity to speak out against Senate President Steve Sweeney’s so-called “Path to Progress,” which is really a Path to Poverty. That legislation, should it be enacted, would have a detrimental financial effect on active and retired public school employees. Among the bills are proposals to shift school employees from the School Employees’ Health Benefits Program (SEHBP) into the State Health Benefits Program (SHBP), shift new public employees (except police and fire) into a cash-balance retirement plan (more like a 401-k), and a host of other anti-employee measures. Carrying signs like “Protect Public Employees” and “No Path to Poverty”, attendees made it clear that they’re no longer willing to shoulder the responsibility for the state’s financial problems.
Additionally, NJEA/NJREA members sought to further the call for Chapter 78 relief and ESP job justice, notably to urge their state senators to post and pass pending pro-ESP legislation. On May 23, the Assembly voted yes on A-3395, which prevents privatization during an active bargaining agreement, and A-3664, which provides just cause arbitration rights to ESP members. However, the Senate companion bills, S-296 and S-3089, have yet to be introduced in their respective committees. Prior to the rally, over 100 NJEA members and staff packed the Statehouse throughout the morning to lobby on these issues, while others filled the courtyard outside wearing “Job Justice” t-shirts and waving “We Are Worth It” signs.
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