As reported by NJ.com, a Superior Court judge is expected to decide whether to order members of the State’s teachers’ union in a dispute with Governor Chris Christie’s administration to give up its boycott of meetings setting health care benefits for public employees. The administration took members of the New Jersey Education Association who sit on the School Employees’ Health Benefits Commission to court, arguing they are neglecting their responsibilities by skipping meetings in order to block the State from pushing through changes in health care coverage for retirees.
The change will save the State $74 million this year, according to court documents filed by the State. The State also contends the teachers’ union’s absence is preventing the Commission from setting premium rates for next year. The NJEA, which represents more that 200,000 members, has accused Christie of refusing to fill a vacancy set aside for union representatives to manipulate the vote. The seat, which belongs to a representative of the AFL-CIO, has been vacant since August 2015.
The State seeks to require the members to commit to attend one or more meetings from September 8 to September 15. If they do not comply, the State wants the Commission to set the rates and vote on the Medicare Advantage change without a quorum. “If they are allowed to continue to remain truant from the meeting, they hold Medicare Advantage hostage and are in effect forcing a no vote without the other commissioners, without public deliberation, without anything,” said Jean Reilly, an assistant attorney general. The attorney for the union said that members have not received adequate information about how the switch would affect retirees’ benefits.
Superior Court Judge Mary Jacobson suggested the legal spat could have been avoided if the State simply presented the Medicare Advantage proposal at one meeting and held the vote at another.
Please continue to check this blog periodically for updates pertaining to this case.