Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Chris Christie's War On The Public Sector

The New Jersey Senate recently decided to back Governor Chris Christie in his war on public workers as they passed a law which hurt already suffering public workers.

 Democratic Senate President Stephen originally proposed a last-minute provision which would limit public employees' access to out-of-state hospitals, however it was amended and now allows "public workers to receive out-of-state care at a higher cost if a doctor decides the treatment is not available in New Jersey." [1] This is potentially devastating. Stephanie Rosati-Practico, a public worker who is also a mother of two children with Down Syndrome stated "'If this bill was enacted 20 years ago, I wouldn't have my kids today'" [2] as her children required special medical attention from the Children's Hospital of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. For other public workers and/or their children who need specialized help that can only be found out of state and cannot pay the costs, they will just be forced to suffer.

Most disturbingly, in addition to the bill increasing "pension costs up to two percent of workers' salaries for all public employees, while at least doubling, and in many cases tripling, their health care contributions," it also "raises the retirement age from 62 to 65, eliminates cost-of-living adjustments and creates a board to formulate a menu of health plans, including low-cost, high-deductible options." (emphasis added) [3] By eliminating cost of living standards, the NJ state government is hurting workers greatly as the costs of food and gas have increased. Food prices overall are expected to increase 3 to 4 percent and grocery store food prices are expected to increase 3.5 to 4.5 percent. [4] The US Energy Information Administration predicts that "the world crude oil market will continue to tighten in 2012," [5] which means Americans will pay more at the pump. Without a cost of living increase, it will be harder for public workers to survive. Coupled with the workers getting health plans with "low-cost, high-deductible options," (which means that they will have to pay more out-of-pocket expenses for healthcare) the New Jersey government helping to sap public workers of their already low income.

Finally, the bill limits the bargaining power of unions on the issue of healthcare. As can be seen above, this is a major problem as it means that public workers will be forced to pay more for their healthcare. By targeting the bargaining of healthcare, Christie is fully destroying union power as "Under current state law, in a contract impasse, a governor or mayor can go through a series of steps and impose terms on most employee groups — on every issue except health care." (emphasis added) [6] Until this bill was passed, healthcare was literally the only thing unions could bargain for and now even that has been destroyed.

President of the New Jersey Senate, Democrat Stephen M. Sweeney, stated that "the problem was that for years, union leaders lied to their members, creating unrealistic expectations." [7] It is interesting that to Sweeney, Christie, and their ilk that getting cost-of-living increases, affordable healthcare, and unions having bargaining powers that are used to protect workers are "unrealistic expectations." How is it an "unrealistic expectation" that you should be rewarded after deciding to become a public worker, foregoing the extra money you could have made in the private sector?

The assault on the worker continues.


2: Ibid

3: Ibid

7: Ibid

No comments: