As reported by, from behind a podium on the Statehouse steps, Hetty Rosenstein briefly subdued a big crowd of public employees with the personal story of how her late father’s pension, earned over decades as head librarian of the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, saved her mother’s home.  “She pays her taxes and her expenses each day as she looks out at her quince tree, at a dogwood, at tulips she planted…and watches her vegetable garden grow,” said Rosenstein, New Jersey director of the Communications Workers of America.  “It takes a special kind of carelessness and cruelty to be willing to burn down the American dream that my father worked so hard to achieve.”  She, like other speakers at the massive lunchtime rally, vowed to fight cuts to the public employee pension system in the Legislature and the courts.  “To any politician or millionaire financier or commission member, if you would let the accomplishment of my father and all husbands and wives to strive to make sure that they’ve taken care of their children…to you I say we will fight you to our very last breath,” Rosenstein shouted.

The rally was planned to coincide with a Superior Court hearing on Governor Chris Christie’s cuts to the public employee retirement system.  The oral arguments were postponed, but the rally went on as planned, with hundreds of public workers swarming the Statehouse in Trenton.  Workers clad in red, blue or green t-shirts carried signs imploring the Governor to “fund the pension” and “obey the law.”  The pension law at the center of the fight requires the State to increase payments into the public employees pension fund, while also freezing cost of living adjustments, raising the retirement age, and forcing workers to contribute more for their retirement.  A trial court judge ruled in February that Christie broke the pension law when he slashed $1.57 billion from this year’s payment, and Christie appealed the ruling to the State Supreme Court.  The unions also sued in Superior Court over Christie’s plans to underfund the next budget’s payment by about $1.8 billion.

Christie has said the 2011 deal, which he had declared would save the pensions, is too costly and is unconstitutional.  At a town hall last month, Christie said there was no “money tree” to meet the unions’ demands.  “Here’s the problem,” Christie told the Cedar Grove town hall crowd, “You’re the money tree.  They’re Robin Hood, alright: They’re gonna take it from you, and give it to them.” Facing a $50 billion unfunded liability and several pension funds that will run dry within a dozen years, he has proposed a massive overhaul that would offer workers less generous retirement and health benefits.

State Senate President Stephen Sweeney, who partnered with Christie on 2011 pension reforms, initially received a mixed welcome from the crowd.  But he reminded the workers of his efforts to raise taxes on millionaires to fund the pension and intervene in the Supreme Court fight on their behalf.  “The governor says he can’t make the payment.  That’s bull you-know-what,” Sweeney said.  “If this was in the private sector, this would be theft.”  Sweeney last week introduced a bill to raise another $675 million for pensions in the budget year beginning July 1 by hiking taxes on income over $1 million, a move Christie argued will drive affluent residents out of the State.

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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.