As reported by, the Reverend Al Sharpton stepped into New Jersey’s budget battle, joining a chorus of union leaders criticizing Governor Chris Christie’s economic policies and urging New Jerseyans to push back against a nationwide campaign to weaken organized labor. At rallies in Newark, Trenton, and Vineland, Sharpton said the state would be violating its workers’ civil rights if it reneges on its pension commitments. He also chastised Christie for feuding with teachers, and warned that governors across the country are on a mission to balance their budgets at the expense of the working class.

“We can cut back people’s pensions. We can lay off workers. We can close hospitals, schools, psychiatric centers. We can deal with changing tenure for teachers-but don’t touch the rich,” Sharpton said at Shiloh Baptist Church in Trenton. “They have become the sacred cow that can’t be touched…while workers become the slaughtered lamb.”

Two national union leaders joined Sharpton onstage and blamed Wall Street’s recklessness for the budget deficits afflicting Wisconsin, Indiana, Ohio, New Jersey and other states where governors have squared off with unions. “That’s what this coordinated attack is. It’s saying to workers, ‘I know you didn’t create the problem, but you solve it,” Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers. “That’s what we’re fighting.”

Christie has called for an overhaul of the state’s pension and health benefits systems for public workers, but has yet to hammer out a deal with the Democrats in control of the Legislature. The two sides have until June 30 to settle on a budget deal for the coming fiscal year. In recent weeks, that debate has been a bitter back-and-forth, with the governor accusing the Legislature of inaction at this town hall events while Democrats fight back in their budget hearings. At the Trenton rally, two Assembly Democrats said Christie was bullying the working class to burnish his conservative credentials.

At the rally in Newark, Sharpton urged 150 anti-violence activists, clergy, and workers to unite against the governor’s efforts to undermine organized labor and implement damaging economic policies. “We have fought governors before and we will stand up to this one,” he said.

Unions have staged several rallies in Trenton this year echoing Sharpton’s message, including one headlined by the AFL-CIO national president in February that drew more than 3,000 people.