More than 250 participants packed the East Brunswick Hilton ballroom for the 13th Annual Women in Leadership Development (WILD) Conference. The atmosphere of unity and sisterhood was remarkable as both first-time and long-time WILD sisters joined together, representing every union sector, age group, and job category as well as the labor movement’s deep racial and cultural diversity.
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New Jersey State AFL-CIO President Charles Wowkanech joined prominent elected officials and top union leaders for a rally on Saturday to express support for 4,200 NJ Transit rail workers who have been working without a contract for five years.
The NJ Transit Rail Labor Coalition representing 17 local unions are facing a March 13 deadline for a strike or lockout. President Wowkanech joined speakers including Congressman Frank Pallone (CD-6) and Assemblyman John Wisniewski (LD-19), who chairs the Assembly Transportation Committee, to call for talks to continue until a fair settlement is reached. The rally across from the Woodbridge Train Station was co-hosted by state Sen. Joseph Vitale (LD-19) and Woodbridge Mayor John McCormick.
Compensation Skyrockets Despite Outperformance By In-House Managers for the Past 5 Years
The New Jersey State Investment Council quietly released the final version of the 2015 annual report last week, and it confirms that investments in New Jersey’s pension system are benefitting Wall Street fund managers in astounding numbers: The pension funds paid a record $728 million in investment management fees and bonuses to outside firms in the fiscal year ending June 30, 2015. In FY15, fees swallowed almost 20% of the fund’s investment income (i.e., investment return, gross of fees, was 5.1%, and fees were 0.9%, with net investment return being just 4.2%).
“It’s outrageous that Wall Street millionaires are becoming Wall Street billionaires at the expense of middle-class workers and retirees,” said Charles Wowkanech, president of the New Jersey State AFL-CIO. “New Jersey’s retired public workers receive a $26,000 per year pension on average, so the only people getting rich off our pension system are the managers reaping obscene fees and bonuses.”
By Laurel Brennan
During the month of March, we celebrate Women’s History by honoring the heroic deeds of the many women who have made life better for families through acts of selflessness. We remember such pioneers as Charlotte Forten, a Philadelphia teacher who was among the first to volunteer to educate newly freed slaves in the South; Mary Harris "Mother" Jones, who fearlessly fought for workers’ rights during the early 1900s; and Alice Paul, a New Jersey resident who was the strategist in the campaign for women’s right to vote.
As is evident from these examples, the struggle for women’s equality and economic justice often has been led by trailblazers in the labor movement. As the beneficiaries of their actions, we pay homage to our union and non-union sisters alike.
After five years of hostile contract negotiations, our brothers and sisters from SMART Transportation Division who work for NJ Transit are facing a March 13 deadline for a strike or lockout. This would affect 150,000 people who commute daily on trains, and 280,000 who take buses.
NJ Transit Rail Operations Corp. has ignored a federal labor board recommendation for modest annual pay increases and a slight uptick in health care coverage over the next six years. And it has ignored a plea from New Jersey’s congressional delegation, which sent a letter urging NJ Transit to seriously consider the board’s recommendations. Instead, NJ Transit wants to impose an astronomical increase in health care costs that would wipe out any wage increases on the table. After waiting five years for a contract, these employees have earned the right to move forward economically, not backward!
By Charles Wowkanech and Hetty Rosenstein
Gov. Chris Christie often says he wants public-sector benefits to mirror what's offered to employees in the private sector. However, the governor won't dare mention that shorting pension funds in the private sector is illegal. Only in government can Christie get away with flouting his pension obligation without legal ramifications.
For all Christie's bluster about "exhorbitant" benefits plans, the truth is that New Jersey's average yearly pension benefit of $26,000 is among the nation's least generous — 95th in benefit generosity out of America's 100 largest pension funds. And he doesn't tell you that the average New Jersey government employee pays more out-of-pocket for individual health insurance than government workers in any other state.
The governor flat out isn't being factual when he claims a typical government employee pays $126,000 toward pension and health benefits and receives $2.4 million in return.
The New Jersey State AFL-CIO is excited to report its 866th labor candidate victory with the election of union brother Tony Ciasca of IBEW 94 to the Burlington Township Board of Fire Commissioners.
Brother Ciasca won his re-election easily because of the support of the New Jersey State AFL-CIO’s labor candidate program, the Burlington County Central Labor Council and IBEW 94. These combined efforts including direct mail and phone banking propelled Brother Ciasca to election victory. We thank all our affiliates and staff for their hard work in this successful effort.
We all win when labor stands united!
Today is a proud day for the New Jersey State AFL-CIO, a leader in the fight to raise the minimum wage to a living wage in our high-cost state. Leaders in the Senate and Assembly announced that they have agreed to pursue a plan to raise the wage to $15 per hour.