Committees in the New Jersey Senate and Assembly met Thursday to consider several bills of concern to working families. Here is a rundown of the day’s legislative action:
Safe Staffing for Nurses (A-647/S-1183). Legislation establishing staffing levels for nurses cleared the Assembly Health and Senior Services Committee by a vote of 8-4. It was the bill’s first public hearing. Voting in favor were: Assembly members Herb Conaway (D-7, Dan Benson (D-14), Tim Eustace (D-38, Jerry Green (D-22), Angelica Jimenez (D-32), Patricia Egan Jones (D-5) and Nancy Pinkin (D-18). Voting in opposition were: Mary Pat Angelini (R-11), Amy Handlin (R-13), Nancy Munoz (R-21) and Erik Peterson (R-23).
By Laurel Brennan
The American woman’s struggle for equal pay is not new. As far back as the Civil War, working women have been fighting to be paid on the same scale as men. As Labor Secretary Lewis Schwellenbach pointed out when he tried unsuccessfully to get an equal pay amendment passed in 1947, “There is no sex difference in the food she buys or the rent she pays, there should be none in her pay envelope.”
As one of the few groups advocating for the interests of working people, labor unions have led the way for gains. In 1961, labor activist Esther Peterson convinced President Kennedy to address gender pay inequality. Over the next two years, she gathered data, built coalitions and overcame fierce opposition in a successful campaign to enact a national Equal Pay Act. The following year, the labor-backed Civil Rights Act of 1964 further strengthened laws for gender equality. And, in 2009, unions pressed Congress to pass the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which extended the time frame for women to file equal-pay lawsuits when business owners intentionally shortchanged them.
New Jersey State AFL-CIO President Charles Wowkanech issued the following statement in response to the governor’s disgraceful comments scapegoating union workers for his own failures:
“It’s no secret that Chris Christie has been ‘calling it in’ for close to a year now, relegating the governorship to basically a $175,000 per year no-show job. For that reason, the Legislature is going directly to the citizens to advance common-sense solutions to the state’s most urgent problems. That’s leadership, and the governor should take note.”
President Charles Wowkanech issued the following statement on the introduction of legislation to put a constitutional amendment on the ballot requiring the state to fully fund pensions:
“The New Jersey State AFL-CIO strongly supports legislation to place a constitutional amendment on the 2016 ballot requiring the state to make its full pension payments. We applaud Senate President Steve Sweeney’s ongoing efforts to restore New Jersey’s pension system to fiscal health on behalf of this state’s 650,000 active and retired public-sector workers."
New Jersey representatives in Congress who have been fighting to reinstate critical funding for New Jersey Transit successfully restored $50 million a year to our state’s federal mass transit funding.
U.S. Sens. Bob Menendez and Cory Booker along with Reps. Albio Sires and Frank Pallone refused to support a federal transportation bill if it included a provision to strip the money from NJ Transit. These public officials stood up for New Jersey’s working families by helping secure much-needed funding for infrastructure projects in our state.
The Friedrichs U.S. Supreme Court case is an attack on the fundamental right of workers to form unions and exercise their collective voice on the job. To understand why this case has been brought forth and its implications on all workers, please take a moment to watch this video featuring our union sister Jennifer Higgins from AFT Local 1904 at Montclair University.
As the video reveals, this case is being funded by the same forces that have been attacking American working people for decades. The Center for Individual Rights (CIR), which brought this case forth, is a front group designed to advance conservative legal action. CIR is funded by wealthy interests like the Koch Brothers, the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation, and the F.M. Kirby Foundation based in New Jersey.
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The New Jersey State AFL-CIO looks forward to welcoming all of our union sisters to the 13th Annual Women in Leadership Development (WILD) Conference that will take place at the Hilton East Brunswick from March 4-5, 2016. This year’s conference will offer new and enlightening insights into building leadership skills, women’s labor history, and the fight for our economic future.
During this time when workers seeking to organize face unprecedented opposition from businesses and wealthy political donors, RWDSU Local 108 has shown that solidarity can and will prevail in our state. This was recently demonstrated through an organizing victory achieved by 30 drivers at Transdev, an international transportation company.
The New Jersey State AFL-CIO congratulates RWDSU Local 108 and its organizing team for their role in making this victory possible and welcomes our new brothers and sisters to our union family.