Listen Again: March 29 State Worker Tele-Town Hall

Topics:

  • Increments/ Step Increases Case
    • July 2015: The Christie Administration illegally froze increments. Back in 1981, the State did exactly the same thing. CWA went to the Public Employee Relations Commission (PERC), and in 1981 PERC upheld the right to increments. Since 1981, every time a contract expired state workers still recieved increments.
      • The Christie Administration based their decision to freeze increments on a 2013 PERC decision in Atlantic County in which PERC reversed 40 years of precedent and decided that after contract expiration employers no longer had to pay increments. Christie’s PERC issued a similar decision in Bridgewater Township in 2013. Appeals were filed by the Patrolman’s Benevolent (PBA) on both of the PERC decisions.
      • In 2015, CWA also filed grievances, an unfair practice with PERC, and filed a complaint in court.
    • March 2016: We received an Appellate Court decision in favor of the unions that reversed PERC’s decision. The employers in Atlantic County and Bridgewater petitioned the NJ Supreme Court to review the Appellate Court decision.
    • August 2016: The NJ Supreme Court agreed to hear their case.
    • March 13, 2017: The NJ Supreme Court heard argument on the case.
    • We do not know when we will get the Supreme Court’s decision. If the decision is in our favor, CWA will go to the State and argue that it must pay increments going forward and retroactively to July 2015. We do not know if the state will agree, but we will be in an excellent legal position to demand that increments will be paid and paid retroactively.
  • State Worker Bargaining
    • CWA recently decided that they would go into bargaining with the Christie Administration. CWA had not been in bargaining because we did not believe we could reach a fair agreement with the Christie administration and that the Christie administration had acted illegally in freezing increments.
    • IFPTE Local 195 and IBEW agreed to contracts with 0%, 0% 1.75% and 1.5%. This is not sufficient and harms people who are at max and did not address healthcare. Also these unions agreed to language in the contract that CWA would not want in our contract.
    • CWA met with the State on March 24 and management put their non-economic proposals across the table. Management gave CWA 45 pages of documents removing language from the contract.
    • CWA has scheduled additional bargaining dates.

QUESTION: Now that you’ve heard about the increments case, does it change your opinion of how we should approach bargaining?

Answer % of total
I thought we should be bargaining before and I still think we should quickly bargain a contract with Christie even if it is the same as what Local 195 and IBEW got. 15%
I thought we should be bargaining before, but now I’m ready to wait a little bit and not take a contract that undermines our language. 37%
I didn’t think we should be bargaining before and I still think we should not rush to a contract with Christie. 48%

 

  • Pension
    • In February, Gov. Christie announced a $2.5 billion pension payment in the state budget. This is only half of the required contribution recommended by actuaries.
    • The Governor also proposed that the State Lottery be transferred into the pension plan as an asset.The value of this asset would be $13.8 billion dollars. In transferring this asset in, it will lower the unfunded liability.
    • We do not know as of yet: 1) If this is legal; 2) If the amount they say the Lottery is worth is genuine, and 3) If pensions will actually benefit from this.
    • CWA is meeting with the Treasurer to get our questions answered with our lawyer, Steve Weissman, our actuary from Segal Corporation (which is independent of the State) and Adam Liebtag, President of Local 1036 and our representative on the State Investment Council.

QUESTION: Do you support our decision to meet with the state to discuss the details of Christie’s lottery/pension proposal?

Answer % of total
Yes.  If someone is proposing putting an asset into the fund that will lower state payments and create a dedicated revenue source, we at least have to look into it. 57%
No.  Whatever Christie does, he will find a way to back out of his end of the deal. 21%
I’m not sure. 22%

 

  • State Budget and Health Care
    • In this year’s budget, there is $3.3. Billion dollars missing relative to eight years ago— all having gone directly to the wealthy.
    • Christie wants to cut $125 million dollars in spending this year on health benefits for state workers and another $125 million for teachers and local government workers.
    • Based on what we know, Christie is planning on counting savings from passing an out-of-network bill. For the past two years, CWA has supported out-of-network legislation in the state legislature. Christie’s version of the bill would solely benefits hospitals and not patients. Insurance companies say the amount Christie thinks it will save is greatly exaggerated. Christie’s out-of-network proposal is not in the budget as of now and will try to get it passed last minute to be included. CWA is against this and will soon join other unions in the State Health Benefits Plan to send a letter to Democrats in the legislature: No budget resolutions on our health benefits of any kind and fully fund health benefits this year.
    • Last year, the representative from the PBA, voted with the Christie Administration and against other unions on healthcare, so we will have fight at the State Health Benefits Plan Design Committee to make sure every union represented votes against this type of plan.
  • Federal Government and NJ Resistance
    • Three very important matters happening at the Federal level:
      1. The Trump-Ryan Health care Plan. The bill was just withdrawn but now is being pursued again.
      2. The nomination of Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court. Gorsuch has made it clear that he opposes workers rights.
      3. The Trump Budget that will cut billions of dollars in social services, environmental and health funding. One-third of the jobs in the State are federally funded and could come from the areas that will be cut.
    • CWA will contact members time to time about resistance activities. To be part of our daily email list, email info@njresistance.org from your home email account. If you are not interested in these activities, you will only hear about them as they directly relate to CWA activity.

QUESTION: Does CWA need to be directly involved in Resistance activities?

Answer % of total
Yes. What happens at the federal level directly impacts us and CWA needs to be involved to protect our members and their families. 65%
No. The election is over. 19%
I’m not sure. 16%