Dear CWA Members,
The Chris Christie Shutdown of 2017 is over, we are back to work, but as is almost always the case with Chris Christie, after everyone else has gone home, we are left to clean up the mess.
There was a budget.
It was agreed to between the Senate and the Assembly. In fact, it was agreed to by Christie. But Christie wanted money from Horizon Blue Cross for his pet program. Horizon refused. Joe Vitale and the Senate offered up a “compromise” that still allowed the State to take “excess” reserves from Horizon and that named Horizon the insurer of last resort – at a time when no one knows what will be the impact of the attack on the Affordable Care Act. Assembly Speaker Prieto refused to tie Horizon to the budget and called out the Vitale “compromise” as bad public policy.
Christie said that if he didn’t get the Horizon bill, he would cut public services as punishment. Or, alternatively, he didn’t care about the Horizon Bill if the Legislature would cut public workers Sick Leave or eliminate public notices in newspapers. In other words, he didn’t care who he hurt as long as it was someone.
South Jersey and Middlesex County Democrats sided with Christie and refused to vote for the budget that they supported until Christie was satisfied. Prieto said no as did all of the public sector unions, and allies such as New Jersey Working Families Alliance, Action Together New Jersey, Sierra Club, Clean Water Action, AFL-CIO, New Jersey Citizen Action and every progressive organization in the State.
The State shut down at midnight on Friday, June 30 and there was no end in sight.
But we were mobilizing. There were thousands of workers making calls, we made our plans for a week of actions at legislative offices, and the pressure was mounting.
And then Christie got caught on the beach. No one could withstand this any longer.
At a meeting with the Senate, the Assembly and Horizon, a new bill was prepared. This bill creates caps on Horizon’s reserves that are significantly higher than the current reserves Christie said were too high, any return of reserves has to go to ratepayers and can’t be grabbed by the State, and the language making Horizon an insurer of last resort and a charitable endeavor is gone. In other words – it was a face saving capitulation by the man on the beach.
So … back to work we go.
However, it’s Christie. So he’s going to try to not make us “whole.” He hasn’t agreed to pay our members for the day(s) we were locked out. He’s only conceded the July 4th holiday.
We think that we are in a good legal, moral, political position to fight and get the day(s) back and that’s what we are going to do.
As usual, everyone else goes home, and we are left to clean up the mess. But we do that better than anyone and we are on it. We will get our pay. We will get our contract. We will get our increments. We will save our pensions. We will make progress on healthcare. Because we don’t just cave. We fight based upon good solid principles, public policies, and putting our members first.
One other point to be made here – the leaders of the CWA Locals were … awesome. Presidents and officers and political coordinators and staff and some stewards were at the State House day and night over the July 4th weekend. It was that presence, as well as your constant phone calls, the kick ass press event Friday, and a particularly well-placed plane carrying a banner (😉) that SHAMED Christie into this settlement.
198 days to go and Christie will be gone. Our Union will still be here. I’ve never been prouder to be part of CWA. Thank you for all that you do. Thank you for staying CWA STRONG.