As reported by, the state’s largest public employee union unveiled its plan for workers to contribute more for their medical coverage in hopes of convincing lawmakers and the public that real savings can be achieved at the bargaining table. 

The Communications Workers of America, which represents about 40,000 state workers, detailed a plan union leaders say would increase employees’ share of insurance premiums to about 14 percent and save taxpayers more than $200 million by 2013. The plan calls for increased monthly contributions and higher co-pays for doctor’s visits and prescription drugs.

Union leaders say they were forced to take the negotiations public after Governor Chris Christie made it clear a week ago that he was not interested in negotiating medical benefits. Those details should be handled through legislation, he said. “Governor Christie professes to love collective bargaining, but we have yet to see it,” said Bob Master, CWA political director. “What’s going on in New Jersey is no different than what’s going on in Wisconsin and Ohio.”

Momentum is building to require all public workers to contribute significantly more for medical benefits. Christie and Senate President Stephen Sweeney say broad-based legislation is the only way to bring parity between public and private workers and save the state millions. “We’re changing New Jersey, and the CWA has to be part of it,” Christie said at an appearance in Newark. “I know they don’t like the fact that someone will go to the Legislature and fight for the taxpayers rather than fleece the taxpayers, which they’ve been doing over history. Sorry, there’s a new game in town and they’re going to have to get used to it.”

Hetty Rosenstein, state director of CWA, said state workers understand they need to contribute more, but believe the terms should be negotiated, as they have been for decades. While the CWA is the largest state employee union, it represents only a fraction of the 510,000 public workers in the state, and Christie wants the health benefits law to cover all public workers. Christie is hoping to save more than $300 million in the proposed budget with the reform package. Rosenstein said she is trying to reach out to other public employee unions in hopes of having a “mass negotiation” that would help achieve the savings Christie is seeking while preserving the right to collectively bargain medical benefits.  

Under the CWA plan, workers would continue to pay 1.5 percent of their salaries toward medical costs but would also kick in an additional 5 percent of their premiums by 2013. The hybrid model is designed to take into account a worker’s salary. By the end of the contract, average workers would pay about 13.5 percent of their medical premium costs, about $210 a month for family coverage. Rosenstein said with co-pays and other changes, workers would pay about 22 percent of their premiums. Christie wants all public employees to pay 30 percent of their premiums, about $475 a month for family coverage. Sweeney wants workers to pay 12 to 30 percent of premiums, based on salary.

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Photo of Donald C. Barbati Donald C. Barbati

Donald C. Barbati is a shareholder of Crivelli, Barbati & DeRose, L.L.C. His primary practice revolves around the representation of numerous public employee labor unions in various capacities to include contract negotiation, unfair labor practice litigation, contract grievance arbitration, and other diverse issues…

Donald C. Barbati is a shareholder of Crivelli, Barbati & DeRose, L.L.C. His primary practice revolves around the representation of numerous public employee labor unions in various capacities to include contract negotiation, unfair labor practice litigation, contract grievance arbitration, and other diverse issues litigated before the courts and administrative tribunals throughout the State of New Jersey. In addition, Mr. Barbati also routinely represents individuals in various types of public pension appeals, real estate transactions, and general litigation matters. He is a frequent contributor to the New Jersey Public Safety Officers Law Blog, a free legal publication designed to keep New Jersey public safety officers up-to-date and informed about legal issues pertinent to their profession. During his years of practice, Mr. Barbati has established a reputation for achieving favorable results for his clients in a cost-efficient manner.

Mr. Barbati has also handled numerous novel legal issues while representing New Jersey Public Safety Officers. Most notably, he served as lead counsel for the Appellants in the published case In re Rodriguez, 423 N.J. Super. 440 (App. Div. 2011). In that case, Mr. Barbati successfully argued on behalf of the Appellants, thereby overturning the Attorney General’s denial of counsel to two prison guards in a civil rights suit arising from an inmate assault. In the process, the Court clarified the standard to be utilized by the Attorney General in assessing whether a public employee is entitled to legal representation and mandated that reliance must be placed on up-to-date information.

Prior to becoming a practicing attorney, Mr. Barbati served as a judicial law clerk to the Honorable Linda R. Feinberg, Assignment Judge of the Superior Court of New Jersey, Mercer Vicinage. During his clerkship Mr. Barbati handled numerous complex and novel substantive and procedural issues arising from complaints in lieu of prerogative writs, orders to show cause, and motion practice. These include appeals from decisions by planning and zoning boards and local government bodies, bidding challenges under the Local Public Contract Law, Open Public Records Act requests, the taking of private property under the eminent domain statute, and election law disputes. In addition, Mr. Barbati, as a certified mediator, mediated many small claims disputes in the Special Civil Part.

Mr. Barbati received a Bachelor of Arts degree in history, magna cum laude, from Rider University in Lawrenceville, New Jersey. Upon graduating, Mr. Barbati attended Widener University School of Law in Wilmington, Delaware. In 2007, he received his juris doctorate, magna cum laude, graduating in the top five percent of his class. During law school, Mr. Barbati interned for the Honorable Joseph E. Irenas, Senior United States District Court Judge for the District of New Jersey in Camden, New Jersey, assisting on various constitutional, employment, and Third Circuit Court of Appeals litigation, including numerous civil rights, social security, and immigration cases.