by Clyde Weiss | May 03, 2011
UNITED WE’RE STRONGER – AFSCME Sec.-Treas. Lee A. Saunders, at a rally at Newark City Hall to support New Jersey’s working families, joins members of National Union of Hospital and Health Care Employees (NUHHCE)/AFSCME Local 1199J. (Photo credit: Deirdre Wilson-Redmond)
AFSCME Sec.-Treas. Lee A. Saunders, civil rights leader Rev. Al Sharpton and AFT President Randi Weingarten led a series of demonstrations last week in defense of working families. They also spoke out against New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s (R) efforts to cut the state budget, including a plan to close the Vineland Developmental Center.
Speaking to hundreds of union activists and supporters at a workers rights solidarity rally at Newark City Hall on April 26, Saunders declared, “All we have to do is look at Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio and other states to see where Governor Christie wants to take us. Like the radicals in those states, he is forcing working families into a race to the bottom.”
At another large rally earlier in the day, Saunders, Sharpton and other labor leaders blasted plans to shutter the Vineland facility, which houses more than 350 women with developmental disabilities. They would be displaced starting when the center’s West Campus is closed this June.
FIGHTING FOR WORKING FAMILIES – Sherryl A. Gordon, executive director of AFSCME Council 1 and an AFSCME International vice president, addressed the Newark City Hall rally. “It’s time for New Jersey’s working families to stand together,” she said. (Photo credit: Deirdre Wilson-Redmond)
Closure also would eliminate 1,459 full- and part-time jobs held by members of Local 2215 (AFSCME Council 71) and the Communications Workers of America (CWA).
“We’re not here just to collect a paycheck, we’re here because we care,” said Sherryl A. Gordon, executive director of AFSCME Council 1 and an AFSCME International vice president. “This is a labor of love, from the heart. It’s time for New Jersey’s working families to stand together.”
At a panel discussion in Trenton, Saunders warned that attacks on working families would hurt the entire state, noting that Christie’s plan to make state public service workers pay 30 percent of their health care premium costs – up from 8 percent – would “drive many families close to the poverty line, if not across it.”
Sharpton said New Jersey’s budget problems were exacerbated by tax breaks for millionaires. Christie permitted a state surcharge on millionaires to expire when he became governor last year.