NJ War Between Teachers' Union and Governor Headed to Court

By Brian Thompson
|  Wednesday, Apr 28, 2010  |  Updated 11:53 PM EDT
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NJ War Between Teachers' Union and Governor Headed to Court

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New Jersey Governor Chris Christie

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The latest salvo between the New Jersey Education Association and Governor Chris Christie comes from the NJEA, with word that it has filed a lawsuit over a new law requiring 1.5% of every public school employee's salary go to pay for state-provided health insurance.

"This legislation was ill-conceived ...and was rushed through the Legislature to meet an artificial timeline imposed on lawmakers by the governor," said NJEA President Barbara Keshishian in a statement.

The Governor's office fired right back, calling the requirement that teachers pay 1.5% a "meager" amount.

"The NJEA is an organization that doesn't know the meaning of the words fair, reasonable or compromise," said Michael Drewniak, the Governor's Press Secretary in a statement replying to the lawsuit.

The union said in its press release that "the new law violates the collective bargaining rights of school employees, illegally reduces salaries for those employees, and violates several clauses of both the New Jersey Constitution and the United States Constitution."

"We are asking the court to see this for what it is: a tax imposed selectively on public employees only," said the NJEA's Keshishian in her statement, noting that the "lawsuit is similar to two other suits filed last week by firefighters and police."

She also complained "the governor's attacks on school employees have stepped up in the weeks since the legislation passed, as he continues to break promises he made during the campaign to fund schools, protect pensions, respect collective bargaining and prevent layoffs."

Drewniak, the governor's Press Secretary, said  "It is our belief that we will prevail in our effort to bring reasonable and overdue benefits and pension reform to New Jersey."

His response noted that the measure passed both houses of the legislature "overwhelmingly," and added "It's time for change, and everyone but the NJEA seems to recognize that."

There is little the two sides seem to agree on.

Keshishian is quoted as saying "Our members work hard every day to make sure every student ... receives a great education." She added, "They don't ask for any special treatment, but they have a right not to be singled out for attacks on their compensation."

Drewniak fired right back "That's laughable, because that is exactly what they are trying to perpetuate as an organization - special treatment."

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