By Dennis “DJ” Mikolay
For several months now, I have been following the conflict between Governor Chris Christie and the various public worker unions. I have heard these organizations’ lies, read their propaganda, and watched as the situation escalated from a minor scuffle to an all out war. And through it all – the name calling, the press releases, and the threats directed at our chief executive – I always assumed that eventually the leadership of these various unions would recognize their efforts were counterproductive and damaging to their public image.
I anticipated the day when they would tone down their hate-filled tirades. I waited for them to finally recognize that in light of the state’s financial woes sacrifices would have to be made to assure the stability of their pensions. We all hoped the union leadership would finally do what was best for their membership and work alongside the Governor to protect these public worker jobs, pensions, and futures.
Unfortunately, the vicious attacks and slanderous accusations continued to escalate. Indeed, it seemed as though these unions, the most vocal being the New Jersey Education Association, would continue to air their nightly commercials, peddle their newsletters, and essentially manipulate their membership into accepting a revisionist version of history that had absolutely no basis in reality.
Thankfully, last week was very likely the beginning of the end of this almost two-year long clash of the Titans. After months of childish behavior, the public worker unions finally pushed the envelope too far.
I will attempt to summarize a complex situation: the animosity between Christie and the unions reached its apex after the Republican Governor formed an unexpected alliance with Senate President Steve Sweeney and Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver, two of the most powerful Democratic lawmakers in the state. This influential trio posed an immediate threat to the already diminished power of the state’s unions. The coalition likely assured that bill s2937, which would require state workers to pay a larger percentage into their pensions and benefits, would pass both houses of the legislature.
In a last ditch effort to intimidate legislators, roughly two thousand disgruntled public workers gathered outside of the New Jersey Statehouse to protest the bill. While this tactic has scared elected officials in the past, in the wake of lagging public support for the unions, and with a budget crisis looming ever larger in Trenton’s conscious, their efforts were largely irrelevant.
What would likely have been remembered as just another union protest took a shocking turn when Christopher Shelton, keynote speaker for the Communication Workers of America’s, upped the crazy and referred to the governor as “Adolf Christie.”
While one reference to fascism is offensive enough, Shelton’s rant didn’t end there. He went on to refer to New Jersey as “Nazi Germany,” slammed the state’s Democrats for being “god-damn Nazis,” and then exclaimed that it would require “World War III” to remove the sitting Governor from office.
And with that act of cowardly desperation, Shelton dealt the deathblow to his own movement. He essentially killed any chance of the unions actually winning the crusade. The public was aghast at the comparison, Democratic lawmakers further distanced themselves from the protestors, and the media had a field day.
Later that day, under the guiding watch of Senator Steve Sweeney, the Senate Budget Committee passed s2937. The bill is expected to pass the State Assembly next week. After that, Governor Christie will sign it into law, marking the end of one of the state’s many union-propelled wars.
But what does this mean for American politics?
More than most people realize.
For several decades, New Jersey has been one of the most corrupt states in the country. Trenton’s politicians have long been beholden to the unions, often shunning the public welfare to do their bidding. These groups controlled agenda setting, policy-making, and influenced elections. They funneled millions of dollars into getting their way, and for a very long time, their reign went unchallenged.
Everyone was afraid of the big, bad unions.
Then came Governor Chris Christie, the first politician who not only said he was going to tackle the unions head on, he actually made good on his word after taking office.
And while it has certainly been an uphill battle (the unions did exactly what everyone expected; they came out in full-swing, utilizing every dirty trick in the book to try and turn public opinion against the Governor), in the end, it was a war worth fighting.
The Governor stood on principle; despite the overwhelming and discouraging odds, he (and the taxpayers) prevailed. If such a triumph can occur in New Jersey, the state most heavily inundated with union rule, then similar victories can be achieved elsewhere in the country. We can only hope that the Christie battle-plan will serve as a blueprint for how other governors will deal with union influence over their state’s politics. The time has come to shift the power from the few (the public worker unions) to the many (the majority of taxpaying voters).
The battle in Trenton was the shot heard round the world. One can only hope that it will also serve as a call to arms; there are, after-all, forty-nine other states. The recent victory may also influence the nation in another way: Christie Christie remains a wildly popular figure across the country. There has been much speculation that he will someday seek the White House, a campaign that could very likely be bolstered by his recent success in Trenton.
While in the wake of the unfolding victory, conservatives across the country are rejoicing, but the folks at the New Jersey Education Association are busy planning another protest. Their latest gimmick will involve a symbolic crossing of the Delaware River (a nod to George Washington). While such theatrics may gain some media coverage, they will not help the unions regain public confidence, nor will they influence the outcome of the upcoming Assembly vote. We have reached a true turning point in American politics…let’s hope the revolutionary fervor continues to spread.