Happy Labor Day.
Today we can celebrate that “government of the people, for the people and by the people” has perished from this State.
It has been replaced by government of, for and by the government workers’ unions, bureaucrats protected by civil “service” laws and contracts, and the politicians, protected by gerrymandering and incumbency, who have abdicated the most fundamental functions of government to said unions and bureaucrats. The so called public “servants.”
If this was a partisan political post, I’d be slamming Newark Mayor Cory Booker for the rise in crime in his city over the last over the last three years.
But that would be disingenuous. Violent crime in Newark declined from 2006, when Booker was elected mayor through November of 2010 when he laid off the 167 city police officers that had been hired since he became mayor.
Booker, facing an $83 million budget gap, asked the police union for $9.5 million in concessions. The union counter-offered with $2.7 million in concessions from only the new officers, those subject to the layoff, and $6 million in deferred compensation. The older, higher paid officers were protected and offered no concessions. The union leadership did not let their members vote Booker’s proposal, according the Star Ledger.
Many of the officers who lost their jobs at midnight Monday night said they were angry with the union and Booker.
“The union didn’t even let us vote on it. We were stuck between a rock and hard place. Now we’re just unemployed,” said Zack Vonlagen, 25, who surrendered his gun and shield when he reported for duty. “They shouldn’t have even hired us … You don’t buy a house that you can only afford for eight months.”
Alonso Vinueza, 33, another officer who was laid off, believes veteran officers refused pay cuts that would have saved his job. He said he hoped “the senior officers, with their untouched contracts, can live a fruitful life.”
In reality, Booker was powerless to prevent the three year violent crime surge. He did not, and does not, have the power to determine how many police officers the city would have or which officers the city would have fighting crime. The union leadership had, and continues to have, that power. The police could have covered the entire $9.5 million needed without any layoffs. They chose not too, knowing that their decision would cost jobs and lives.
When it comes to public safety in New Jersey, our elected leaders are powerless. The unions have the power.
Lincoln’s hallowed words at Gettysburg are a farce in New Jersey. Government of the people, for the people and by the people has perished here.
Booker can, and should, be faulted for not fighting a system that gives the power over public safety to government employees instead of to the people. His politics of possibility, i.e., his daily “transformative” quotes and aphorisms on twitter and facebook, have not saved any lives or done anything to transform the streets of Newark.
But so should Governor Christie, his predecessors , the Legislature and the Courts be blamed. They know the unions have the power. They know the unions will always choose the death of citizens over the incomes and benefits of their most senior members. Yet they go along and get along.
The Star Ledger reports today, in an article with a lie for a headline, Wave of reforms result in lower salaries for police and firefighters, that the average police and fire fighters salaries have risen 1.86% annually since the 2010 government reforms Christie and the legislature implemented.
A major element of those reforms, an arbitration award cap of 2%, is set to expire in April. Whether the arbitration cap is extended or not, more police layoffs, and more violent deaths in our cities, are inevitable under the current system as healthcare costs increase and the most senior highly paid officers are protected from making concessions.
As Daniel Disalvo pointed out in a 2010 National Affairs piece, the founding fathers of the labor movement, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Samuel Gompers and George Meany, saw the dangers of unions controlling government functions.
It is a dying shame that our leaders today can’t see that.
Happy Labor Day.