As reported by nj.com, three major public worker unions’ committees stopped donating to state lawmakers while the legislators, who face elections in November, were preparing to vote on a landmark overhaul of pensions and health benefits.
The Communications Workers of America, New Jersey Education Association, and AFSCME zeroed out what had been historically steady donations to candidates and to political parties between January and March, records show. The reform bills were introduced in February. Instead, unions waited until the benefits fight was nearly over, holding their resources to fund last-minute donations in late May and early June to individual politicians before the party primaries.
In June, weeks after the primary, eight Democrats in the Senate and fourteen in the Assembly sided with Republicans and voted yes on changes to government workers’ pensions and health benefits. The public employee unions who had opposed the measure promised retribution.
Today, campaign finance reports covering donations from April through June, records that will cover the final union donations before the primary, are scheduled to be released. Reports made public on Tuesday, however, showed that the Democratic State Committee received no contributions from the CWA, NJEA, and AFSCME.
Union heads say the pensions and benefits bill passage prompted soul-searching, not only among members disheartened by lawmakers’ decisions, but among the union-led committees that have given more in recent years than all other PACs combined and now have to decide what to do with their money.
Law enforcement unions, who are also affected by the changes to pensions and health benefits, continued to make donations to individual candidates, the ELEC reports showed. The political committee led by the Fraternal Order of Police gave $9,650 in the first quarter, while state troopers gave $8,000. Between April and June, the committee for State Troopers Fraternal Association of New Jersey was the only public workers union to give to the Democratic State Committee, making a $2,600 donation. Further funding will be decided after unions complete their lists of endorsements for November in early August.