Talking to members about economic security and equity, including having secure retirement and quality health care is key to safeguarding workers’ rights through strong unions, AFT president Randi Weingarten told Rowan AFT 2373 members Tuesday. AFT New Jersey president Donna Chiera, Rowan AFT president Joe Basso and College Council president Tim Haresign hosted Weingarten and State Senate president Steve Sweeney, who represents the district and is an Ironworkers union leader.
Rowan AFT local president Joe Basso moderated the discussion. “It’s time now for unions to really band together and address what not only what we need now, but what happens in the future,” he said. Basso and College Council recently concluded statewide bargaining for new contracts for the full-time faculty, professional staff and librarian units and another contract for adjunct faculty.
College Council president Tim Haresign led statewide bargaining and hopes the negotiations will be more productive with a new Governor. He said that the Christie administration has not been a friend to unions or higher education. “One of the biggest problems in New Jersey is the high cost of higher education,” said Haresign who was appointed by Senator Sweeney to the Higher Education Affordability Commission. “The commission came up with a number of recommendations, many of which have been implemented, but many other ideas are still out there and will need to be addressed under a new, more favorable administration,” said Haresign.
Teachers were vilified and became public enemy number one under Governor Christie, according to AFT New Jersey president Donna M. Chiera, a retired elementary school teacher. “In contrast Senator Sweeney really took the time to visit teachers in AFT districts, to hear about the issues and to talk about what we could do together.” Under Sweeney’s school funding plan, every district would be funded fully under the School Funding Reform Act, which was enacted by the state Supreme Court, but never fully implemented, according to Chiera.