NJEA’s leadership, marching in lock-step with the police and firefighters’ unions, filed suit against pension reform laws that force all public employees to contribute 1.5% of their base pay towards health benefits. Here’s the actual suit, which names as defendants Chris Christie, Steve Sweeney, Sheila Oliver, The State of New Jersey, and the Department of the Treasury, among others. The lawsuit claims that the imposition of S3 is “contrary to the collective bargaining process,” and violates the due process clause of the 5th and 14th amendments of the U.S. Constitution (“no state shall deprive any person of life, liberty, or property without due process of law”). In addition, NJ’s new-born pension and benefits reform bill violates the Equal Protection Clause (all employees give back the same percentage of base pay regardless of what health coverage they choose) and the Tax Fund Clause, which prohibits any tax levy on personal income unless it is used only for NJ’s Property Tax Relief Fund.
One can argue the merits of the lawsuit till the cows come home (isn’t giving money back to school districts funded by property taxes a form of property tax relief?) but one thing’s certain: bad timing and bad strategy. What’s NJEA thinking? That this salvo will muster sympathy from voters who look upon a 1.5% contribution to health benefits as chump change?
Carl Golden over at New Jersey Newsroom says that this lawsuit “may turn out to be a classic case of the wrong fight in the wrong place at the wrong time,” filed 72 hours “after taxpayers defeated nearly six in every 10 school district budgets — the greatest rejection rate in 35 years — in a stunning backlash against ever increasing government spending and ever increasing property taxes.”
No offense (yes, yes, none taken) but does NJEA pride itself on this sort of tin-eared, flat-footed strategic debacle? How many ways can its leadership demonstrate an uncanny deafness to public perception? Can’t you hear the buzz?: “You want a health care contribution? I’ll show you a health care contribution. You wanna swap?”