What would Christie Do, as in Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey? Exactly as he threatened: Slash wages, benefits and health care for public workers. The problem was that, unlike in Wisconsin, he needed the support of Democrats in the state legislature, something that many liberals and union activists thought was impossible. Yet on Thursday, the New Jersey State Assembly, with Democratic support, approved a massive gutting of benefits for over 750,000 government workers and retirees, according to a Democracy Now report. The legislation will dramatically increase workers’ contributions for health insurance and pensions, thus cutting significantly into their take-home pay. It will also raise the age of retirement, freeze cost-of-living increases for pension checks, and restrict unions’ collective bargaining rights. Thousands rallied at the statehouse in Trenton to protest the cuts, many with signs specifically criticizing Democratic lawmakers.
Right wing education reform cheerleader RiShawn Biddle sees the Jersey vote as a nail in the coffin of the AFT and NEA, arguing that despite the millions of dollars the unions pour into the coffers of Democratic candidates, many Democrats no longer find the “kowtowing” to teachers worth the money. That may be true, but the take home lesson for teachers ought to be that all that campaign financing is an enormous waste of their dues and a pretty lame tactic, too. As I’ve said repeatedly in this blog, politicians are fickle and untrustworthy. They have far more in common with other members of the ruling class than they do with public sector workers and the majority of the working class and middle class clients. Giving them money in hopes that they will win and then vote in favor of working people and that there will be enough of these votes to pass legislation favorable to working people, is pretty indirect and dependent on the stars all being aligned just so. It makes a lot more sense to ask for exactly what you want and then put direct pressure on those with the power to grant it through strikes and other forms of direct action, rather than the passive and indirect method of trying to get “friends” elected who may or may not do your bidding once in office.