Public-Sector Unions to Sue Over Shortchanged Pension Funding in Proposed FY16 Budget

Action Follows Gov. Christie’s Intent to Violate Chapter 78 Law Again

The 14 unions below collectively announced today that they have instructed their attorneys to prepare papers to go back into court to require the Governor to comply with his legal obligations under Chapter 78 to make the State's Annual Required Contribution to the pension system for FY 2016. 

Gov. Christie announced in his February 24, 2015 State Budget address his intention to violate the funding requirements of Chapter 78, the 2011 pension law that he negotiated, promoted and signed. The suit seeks to hold the Governor accountable to follow the law he signed. This is the third consecutive budget in which he has violated the contractual rights of pensioners, putting at risk the retirement security of our members. 

“This governor’s continuing disregard for his own pension funding law leaves us no choice but to go back to court to resume this fight in court on behalf of hundreds of thousands of public-sector workers who make their full pension contributions and depend on the modest income they earn in retirement,” said New Jersey State AFL-CIO President Charles Wowkanech. “This governor’s illegal underfunding has brought the pension system to the brink of crisis and resulted in more credit downgrades than any previous governor in history. It’s a shame that this governor has decided to spend all his time courting Iowa caucus-goers, not addressing the serious problems plaguing his home state.”

Leaders of three large unions that will be part of the lawsuit shared their reactions:

American Federation of Teachers New Jersey (AFTNJ) President Donna M. Chiera: "The governor needs to meet his obligation so future generations of teachers, nurses and public safety workers can care for themselves after long productive careers of caring for others. New Jersey's working families and the court plainly see that the Governor's manufactured budget shortfall is a result of his refusal to hold millionaires and large corporations accountable to contribute their fair share to the State's treasury.” 

New Jersey Education Association (NJEA) President Wendell Steinhauer: “Last year, the Legislature funded the pensions according to the law, and Gov. Christie vetoed it.  Last month, the Court ordered that legally required funding and Gov. Christie defied it.  It’s time to return to the rule of law in our state and to protect the future of hundreds of thousands of New Jersey families.”

Communications Workers of America (CWA) New Jersey Director Hetty Rosenstein: "Gov. Christie flippantly said he wants to 'flip the script.'  But this isn't a House of Cards script. It's a legal obligation. And ignoring the law is what caused this very problem in the first place -- which will never get fixed so long as Christie refuses to meet both his moral and legal responsibilities.”
In February, Judge Mary Jacobson ordered the Christie administration to obey the law and make a $1.6 billion pension contribution this year. The suit seeks to hold the governor accountable to make the statutorily required pension payment of $3 billion in Fiscal Year 2016.

The following unions will be plaintiffs in the lawsuit:  

  • American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 1 (AFSCME)
  • American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 73 (AFSCME)
  • American Federation of Teachers New Jersey (AFTNJ)
  • Communications Workers of America (CWA)
  • Fraternal Order of Police (FOP)
  • Health Professionals and Allied Employees (HPAE)
  • International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers Local 194 (IFPTE)
  • International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers Local 195 (IFPTE)
  • International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers Local 200 (IFPTE)
  • New Jersey Education Association (NJEA)
  • New Jersey Principal and Supervisors Association
  • New Jersey State AFL-CIO
  • Office and Professional Employees International Union (OPEIU) Local 32
  • Professional Firefighters Association of New Jersey (PFANJ)
  • Transport Workers Union (TWU) Local 225 Branch 4

 

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