As reported by nj.com, Democratic leaders met with union officials and sources say the topic was overhauling health benefits. Senate President Steve Sweeney and Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver met with the heads of the biggest public employee unions: Communications Workers of America, America Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers, and the New Jersey Education Association.
Standing outside the meeting, Barbara Keshishian, president of the NJEA, declined to comment, saying the meeting was private. Leaders of the other unions have not responded to a request for comment, but three union and legislative sources said they discussed proposals by Governor Chris Christie and Sweeney to change health benefits for state employees. The sources requested anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the meeting.
The Governor is pushing for state workers to pay 30 percent of the cost of the premium. Currently, state employees pay 1.5 percent of their salary for health insurance. Sweeney is pushing his own plan that would base contributions on both the cost of the premium and salary. Different from Christie’s proposal, Sweeney is recommending a sliding scale that would have low-income workers paying less than high-paid employees.
The Communications Workers of America, the state’s largest union, released its own plan, which would have workers pay a portion of the premium and a portion of their salary. The CWA plan would have most employees paying 14 percent of the cost of the premium. The CWA, with the backing of several other unions, has argued that the health benefits should be subject to collective bargaining, presently taking place to hammer out a new contract when the current one expires on June 30.