NJ educators file lawsuit to block Gov. Christie’s proposed pension raid

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by Brian Washington

New Jersey educators are joining with other public workers who serve their communities to block Gov. Chris Christie’s proposed raid on their pensions.

New Jersey Education Association (NJEA), which represents 200,000 educators from across the state, in conjunction with other public employee unions, has filed a suit against Christie and state Treasurer Andrew Sidamon-Eristoff. In May, Christie issued a statement announcing he would not abide by pension funding requirements outlined in a law that he championed and signed.

In a statement issued today, NJEA President and high school mathematics teacher Wendell Steinhauer says that everyone in the state, including Christie, is subject to state laws.

Wendell Steinhauer
NJEA President Wendell Steinhauer

Our lawsuit seeks to hold him accountable to follow the law that he signed in 2011. Since that time, the
more than 500,000 active members of New Jersey’s public pension systems have been making larger pension contributions out of every paycheck while being promised reduced benefits in retirement. Nearly 300,000 retirees have seen their promised cost of living adjustments frozen as well.  They did not get to choose whether to comply with the law and we will not allow Gov. Christie to treat his obligations under the very same law as optional.

Because of the significant sacrifices made by public employees and retirees, the state has a viable path to pension solvency, but only if Gov. Christie lives up to his obligations. If he does not, New Jersey taxpayers will be saddled with even larger obligations once he is out of office. That doesn’t serve the interests of anyone who cares about New Jersey’s long-term well-being.

We will continue to work with the legislature to ensure that lawmakers defend and uphold the law they passed just three years ago.

Today’s news about the lawsuit follows an opinion editorial from Steinhauer. He stated in the piece that, if the governor failed to make the full required pension contribution, NJEA would sue him for violating state law.

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Reader Comments

  1. Arizona tried this and was sued by the AEA and won, all the way to the Supreme Court in AZ. They had to pay us back for the money they stole from us and balanced their budget with. ALEC gives the Republicans prewritten legislation that they are trying to pass all over the country. Fight them wherever you live! They are still trying to come after our pensions in AZ but so far we have been able to hold them off. I no longer encourage anyone to go into teaching because as a profession it is becoming so onerous and disrespected. All of the legislators will start seeing the results of their attacks on teachers when more and more teachers retire in the next 5 or 10 years and no one is entering the profession any more. The foreign teachers are absolutely correct!

  2. Republicans follow the same action accross this nation: Take from the middle class and the poor, and give to the rich. Investing in the American people is the “Democratic Party tax and spend.” Hay Republicans!, The eventual cost of the Iraqi war will be three trillion dollars, and this was kept off the budget and charged on a credit card! Republicans, you people love Eronn Accounting. I call this fraud.

  3. I live in NC and the same bull—- is happening here. Another thing that boils my blood is the voucher system which takes money away from Public Education and gives money to parents to send their children to private schools with taxpayer money. Taxpayers pay for public schools not private schools. Wonder how those people who complain that they do not have children and resent paying taxes to educate the public feel about their taxes paying for private schools. If we do not support public education we will continue to be an uneducated country, hello third world!

    1. Gov.Chris Christy, has been hiding out in our state for months.He’s like the guy who drops in and never leaves. A week or two ago Mr.Trump held a Rally in, Burlington, VT. Christy showed up; there were a few, about three women standing with their hands up trying to get Trump’s attention! Christy; jumped up and barreled towards one lady,yelling “sit down and shut up!”Then proceeded to do the same to the other ladies. An elderly man, appearing to be in his eighties, was standing with his hand raised, to ask a question! Christy came rushing over yelling, “shut up and sit down!”

  4. I tried as hard as I could to keep an opened mind about the man but as much as I hate to say it…he is a bully.

  5. As an OLD educator, I can recall, actively holding politicians’ feet to the fire, to achieve good in education, in government, and in society. Too many teachers have, complacently, sat in the bleachers eating the “free” popcorn while too few dedicated activists fought the battles, paid the dues and tried to elect friendly lawmakers. The cows have finally come home to roost and the formerly friendly skies are not yielding manna. Wake up and get off your butts to get changes made. Those methods worked in the past and could work again. Organization is the key. But more teachers have to get political.

  6. How’s this for an idea – Make education a “big business” and pay teachers salaries in the 6 and 7 figure range every year with generous bonuses and other perks and then we will gladly turn our current pension plan into individual ginormous 401K’S ???????

  7. PA has avoided funding their end of the pension plan, and allowed school districts to do the same. Now they want to stop that pension system and go to a 401-K type plan for new hires. That still doesn’t address the shortfall in the current system. In the meantime, current teachers are still paying their share and the fracking companies aren’t. We know where Corbett’s priorities are.

    1. It is incredible that a an who showed interest and care for those people in he’s state has failed the again and again. I believe that these Representative should not stand as a representative for that state or any. Education , health , jobs , protection , legislation Act for gun violence , abuse against woman and other important issues specially in education should receive a better action.Teachers who has giving school yeas and that their teaching has made a difference for the children no matter the grade deserve as a teacher. Deserve recognition and what was promised by the state of education and the representative of that state government in charge.. obligations once he is out of office. It looks like Governor Christ service for this state and the has fail the interests and care about New Jersey’s long-term well-being.Time to take his position away. He failed after the storm which it was so important to those people who waited and I believe some still waiting on the Funds,now this.People of New Jersey don’t wait longer and act. Send letters to the Congress and ask for change. Stand with the Democrats and vote for them.You need Good leaders who help the people and not only act as if truly care but do care and act for the communities and people in your states.This is why they were chosen for.No just another face and seat in the crowd. Responsibility, understanding, service, attention and action to comply with his service and job. MCH 6-15-2014

      1. Quite reminiscent of how George Bush handled those big storms, huh? Something about Republicans. Not good on showing people the “love.” Because Republicans think what’s “theirs” is theirs and what’s OURS is also theirs.

    1. His weight does, however, continue to be a visible reminder to the people of New Jersey, and to America, that corrupt politicians like this eat very well and have access to the very best of everything, including healthcare, AT THE EXPENSE OF THE TAXPAYERS, while, at the same time these same politicians would STARVE children and watch people die on the side of the road for lack of food and health care.

  8. I wonder what his Mother would think right now if she was still alive. As a teacher I can’t help but think she wouldn’t be too happy with his attack on educators.

  9. Society wonders why there will be a teacher shortage. It is unconscionable to look at teaching as a volunteer profession.
    Teachers earn little enough without having the government rob them of their pensions.

  10. Attacking retirees living on fixed incomes that they worked for 30 years to earn, and planned the rest of their lives around is Big Government over-reach. I thought republicans were against Big Government? I guess not when it targets and abuses the middle class. I wonder how Mr. Christie would react if this was a move against the pension that he might have earned? (That’s rhetorical, republicans).

  11. He has probably been cutting taxes with the usual promise that growth would more than make up the short fall. This is a lie that has never worked in the past and will never work

  12. This sounds like Rhode Island politics. The legislature raided the state pension fund for years using it as a piggybank for the bank and credit union problems in the early 1990’s and not returning all the money that was taken. It was also underfunded even though state workers faithfully upheld their part of their contracts by paying a percentage into the pension system for years. Teachers paid the highest % of all contributors. Members of the state police and judiciary did not pay in at all. In 2011, state treasurer, Gina Raimondo convinced legislators and the governor that teachers’ COLA’s would be suspended until such time as the pension fund reached 80% funding. There is currently a legal battle about the legality of the state not upholding their side of the contract. Meanwhile, some of the funds that are in the pension fund are being invested in risky hedge funds managed by supporters of the the RI state treasurer who is currently running for governor. You are right, it is a concerted effort by Republicans to destroy unions.

  13. I am a retired educator whose COLA was cut by Gov. Christie. So was my husbands. We have three children who are in the middle of their careers as teachers. The are now paying more toward their pensions and medical. We are worried for them and he after we are gone that they will still get the pensions they are working and contributing to. Christie isn’t even apologetic about having lied to all of us. He is bold faced arrogant. We must sue him and the Administration to stop this boulder from rolling further down the hill.

  14. This is typical of politicians who think they are allowed to spend funds that are not theirs. Quite frankly, at this point, I am encouraging students to seriously reconsider their interest in the educational field, as teachers have become the popular punching bag for society–blamed for all ills. I tell my students that unless they are 150% certain they want to become teachers, they should investigate other options or at the least to double major because they know not what mine field they would enter. Why is it that teachers, our system of pay, our pensions, etc. have become such a convenient scapegoat? It’s as though everyone else is envious that they don’t have pensions and job security and thus, don’t want us to have it either. The budget cuts that have caused us to have more students per classroom, cuts to electives, cuts to jobs, cuts to security, along with additional responsibilities and more paperwork have basically distorted the profession so that it is no longer an attractive profession. Here in Colorado, I recently read that for the first time, there are fewer students majoring in education. It’s not rocket science as to why! Senate bill 191 has given us an evaluation system that no one can comprehend yet it is used, little to no job security, and still far lower wages than other professions requiring the level of education and hours worked along with the level of stress. I love teaching and have students winning state and national awards, free study trips abroad, etc., and yet I’m looking to further my education so I can get out of the classroom to try and find a position with more security, less stress, higher pay, and one that is respected. The profession should be doing more to keep people like me in the classroom who are at the top of their game, yet we are most likely to flee instead of sit around watching the boat to sink. That is very sad imho! I don’t really want to leave the classroom but feel forced as my benefits and salary is eroded. When our school has visiting teachers from other countries they all say the same types of things: I can’t believe your country prefers ‘seat time’ to students being able to show what they know and can do; I can’t understand why you give so many tests; why do you put all students in the same kinds of schools and expect the same results; I’m surprised anyone would want to become a teacher in your country because you work twice as hard as we do for less pay and more hours; why does’t the government protect one of the most important institutions that builds up your country?

    Instead of the public being envious of our waning benefits, they should demand that they have better ones. How the public got swindled into believing that the 401k was an acceptable retirement plan instead of the supplemental plan it was designed as, is beyond me and all other well-read people. Christie is a crook–and everyone knows it, regardless of which state one resides in. Good luck NJ!

    1. CJ…I completely agree! I have been a teacher for 12 years now, and am also thinking of changing careers, mainly because of many of the reasons you mentioned. It is a crime that Gov. Christie gets away with trying to, “Not abide by pension funding requirements”…who does he think he is? Meanwhile, his children are sitting pretty in private schools. Enough. He is the most clueless, arrogant, self-serving man who was ever elected into office (what were you people thinking?). The think that really upsets me is that we are teaching to test, and the children are the ones who are suffering because they will in no way be prepared with any life skills when they graduate…sad. Here is a challenge, Mr. Christie…try doing my job for a year, and then you would have a better idea about what we are talking about. You wouldn’t last 2 days…

  15. Christie has the money to hold a special election, his own “investigation”, and give select employees HUGE RAISES, but thinks he is above the law when it comes to funding the public pension system. He has always been, in my opinion, a do as I say, not as I do kind of governor and a bully who can dish it out but not take it.
    I also feel that he knew about the lane closings at the bridge and probably was in on the plan. When this is proven, his political career will be done. Anyway, if he isn’t on top of his staff in NJ, how can he handle the respoinsibilites of the President of the United States??? We do not need another inept polititian in Washington, DC!

    1. As Davis Sirota wrote in PandoDaily, “All these subsidies are part of Christie’s record $1.5 billion in corporate handouts. Add to that the estimated $1.2 billion in Wall Street fees from Christie’s high-fee, high-risk pension investment strategy, and you get a $2.7 billion hole blown through New Jersey’s finances. And whaddya know? That just so happens to be almost exactly the amount Christie is now borrowing from the pension fund to balance the budget.”

    1. Christi just bully’s everyone he comes in contact with who has something to offer. He is a poor example or role model for the children. No wonder there is a problem with discipline in the schools. The governor does it so they can too!

  16. Gee, it seems that now teachers in N.J. are educating the children and the Governor now expects them to raise the kids also by demanding that teachers pay for the privilege with their promised pensions!! What is Christie thinking?? Is he planning more “bridge work” with the pension funds that he wants stopped?

  17. I completely ditto what Anthony states. Again the party of the rich is taking away from the less fortunate. We need to better value middle class working people as teaching is a sacred profession and should be protected.

  18. More power to them. I live in Kentucky where the state legislature “borrowed” over $20 million from our pension fund that has yet to be paid back. More is being taken out of our paychecks each year to insure the fund, yet it is still bleeding out. I hope you stick it to him. Shame on Christie!!!

  19. This is more Republican destruction of the public pension system in the United States. Let’s support public employees, including teachers, and sue the governor for breaking state law if he follows through with his threat.

    1. Christie is helping to carry out the objectives of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). All educators are urged to check out if the corporations you do business with (e.g., State Farm) support this nefarious organization and divest yourselves of them. Money is all they understand.

    2. New Jersey teachers have bailed the state out of financial difficulty with the onset of Republican Governor Chritie Whitman. Mistake #1.

      New Jersey teachers have bailed the state out AGAIN wih Republican Governor Chris Christie. Mistake #2.

      ARE WE STUPID ENOUGH TO DO IT AGAIN? WE SHOULD HAVE FILED A LAW SUIT WITH MISTAKE #1.

      WHY DO THE TEACHERS HAVE TO CARRY THE FINANCIAL BURDEN OF THE STATE OF NEW JERSEY WHENEVER IT DOESN’T BUDGET ACCURATELY AND GET INTO A BIND WHERE THEY CANNOT RESOLVE A STATE REQUIRED BUDGET.

      IF I DO NOT BALANCE AND CONTROL MY BUDGET, WHO BAILS ME OUT?

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