UNION CITY, New Jersey – AFSCME New Jersey members heard directly from Gov. Phil Murphy about how he plans to restore the middle class in the Garden State.
He discussed his blueprint for a middle class economy at a crowded elementary school gymnasium last week. In addition to the AFSCME New Jersey members, a diverse crowd of parents, students, New Jersey transit workers, teachers and other union sisters and brothers were in attendance.
When community members were invited to ask questions after the plan was presented, Local 2306 President Frances Cintron asked the governor to explain the impact of the projected $800 million in health benefits savings his budget envisions.
“Can you please explain how your budget achieves the projected … savings for health benefits, and what impact will this have on those of us who are in the state health care benefits plan?” she asked.
Murphy responded that people won’t suffer health coverage cuts, and that the strategies to achieve savings are being worked out. In broad terms, he said the health care savings would result from what he called smarter governance and by his administration’s negotiations with public service employees and others.
Murphy ran as an economic populist. He supported workers’ rights, opposed attacks on unions, promised to fully fund the state’s obligations to the pension system, provide paid family leave for all working people, and increase the state’s minimum wage to $15 an hour.
Soon after Murphy took office last year, his administration agreed to a new contract with AFSCME-affiliated public service workers who hadn’t had a contract since 2015. The Murphy administration and the pro-worker legislature, anticipating an adverse ruling in Janus v. AFSCME case, passed the AFSCME-backed Workplace Democracy Enhancement Act, which expanded organizing rights for public service workers.