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New Jersey – Public Service Workers Combat Union-Busting

Fighting for the Disabled
Fighting For The Disabled | At a June rally, AFSCME members protest plans to close Vineland Developmental Center in New Jersey. (Photo by Deirdre Wilson-Redmond)

Thousands of public service workers and their supporters sounded off loud and clear this summer at the state Capitol. The object of their anger: legislation requiring public service workers make significantly higher contributions toward their pension and health benefits; suspending their ability to negotiate over health care; curbing public worker benefits; raising the retirement age; and restricting bargaining rights.

Holding up signs that read ‘Negotiate, Don’t Dictate,’ AFSCME members called the legislation an affront to their collective bargaining rights, pointing out that Gov. Chris Christie (R) had already entered contract negotiations with union workers.

The measure nonetheless gained lawmakers’ approval.

On another front in New Jersey, AFSCME Sec.-Treas. Lee Saunders and other AFSCME officials joined civil rights leader Rev. Al Sharpton and American Federation of Teachers Pres. Randi Weingarten in voicing opposition to Christie’s plans to close the Vineland Developmental Center. Shutting the facility would displace 350 women with developmental disabilities and would also eliminate 1,459 full-and part-time jobs held by members of Local 2215 (Council 71) and the Communications Workers of America.

“We’re not here just to collect a paycheck, we’re here because we care,” said AFSCME Council 1 Exec. Dir. Sherryl A. Gordon, also an International vice president. “This is a labor of love, from the heart. It’s time for New Jersey’s working families to stand together.”

The governor signed legislation creating a task force to examine the need for closing one or two developmental centers, overturning the budget’s call for immediate closure of the Center. This measure gives the surrounding community a fighting chance to keep the facility open.

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