As reported by, New Jersey’s largest teachers union is declining to endorse the state’s two legislative leaders, the latest sign of a rift between public employee unions and Democrats who supported an overhaul of pension and health benefits.

On Saturday, the union’s political action committee announced its endorsement of 68 candidates for state Senate and Assembly-66 Democrats and two Republicans. Among the Democrats passed up, but not the only ones, were Senate President Stephen Sweeney and Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver, who shepherded the contentious measure through the Legislature in June. No candidate who voted for the legislation, Democrat or Republican, won the union’s backing.

In 2007, the last time all 120 seats in the Legislature were at stake, the union endorsed 88 candidates, including Sweeney, Oliver, and many Republican incumbents. This year, the only two Republicans the union endorsed are challengers. In addition, to giving its backing, the union also gave $973,000 in political contributions in 2007.

NJEA members make these endorsement decisions and they have made it clear that they will not endorse legislators who have impaired their right to collectively bargain and who have imposed thousands of dollars of additional costs on public employees,” the union president, Barbara Keshishian, said. “Our members refuse to give precious resources and their own time to campaign for legislators who hurt them and their families.”

The endorsement decision came just two days after the Communications Workers of America, the largest state workers union, also declined to endorse Sweeney, Oliver, and other lawmakers who approved the legislation. 

“The vote came to me as no surprise,” Sweeney said today. “But I am pleased to know that a majority of the union men and women wanted to support candidates with long-standing, far-reaching pro-labor agendas, only to hear their voices smothered by a minority with a short-term political agenda.”

Oliver had far less to say about the snubs. “I have no comment on it whatsoever,” she said. “The two organizations certainly have the ability to endorse who they want to endorse.”