Wisconsin union protests resonate in New Jersey

Thousands of protesters outside the capital in Madison, WI, Friday night. / AP PHOTO / Wisconsin State Journal

New Jersey labor unions are planning a Statehouse rally on Friday to show their support for the Wisconsin public employees fighting to protect bargaining rights.

But the rally here is not all about the standoff between Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and his state’s workers. New Jersey labor leaders say they’re gearing up for when they negotiate new contracts with Gov. Chris Christie.

A message on the Communication Workers of America New Jersey website urges union members to attend the rally, adding the warning: “For those public workers who think this is a completely separate issue and Wisconsin isn’t like New Jersey, Chris Christie said he actually supports Walker, and the similarities between the situations in both states are alarming.”

Christie last week said of Walker: “I support him.”

He also said he’s looking forward to union negotiations here.

“I’m for vigorous collective bargaining. I can’t wait for the process to start,” Christie said.

The union message asked workers to wear red this week.

“Especially on Friday,” the message said.

The rally is scheduled for noon Friday at the Statehouse. It will be attended by National AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka and the union’s state president, Charles Wowkanech.

A spokesman for Wowkanech said, “Hundreds of union members including a couple of Wisconsin union members are expected to attend.”

The Wisconsin protests began more than a week ago. In addition to the proposal to restrict bargaining rights, Walker wants public workers to make larger contributions to their pensions and health benefits — two areas where Christie also advocates making changes in New Jersey worker contracts.

New Jersey union leaders said public workers everywhere are taking the brunt for the economic slump.

“We are all Wisconsin public workers this week,” said Hetty Rosenstein, New Jersey’s CWA state director. “They’re trying to blame middle class workers for the financial mess that Wall Street caused. It’s more politics as usual, and we’re ready to fight back.”


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