Thursday, June 23, 2011

Good morning, Assemblyman Green

I want to thank you for publicly declaring your opposition to the Pen Ben Bill. I encourage you to stand strong on this matter and to insist that the other members of the Assembly recognize the harm this bill would bring. I have emailed a number of them urging them to vote "No!" As you know, despite public protest, some politicians have dismissed real concerns as "whining." You know that kind of spin is political and insensitive to the voice of the people you represent. It is unconscionable that some can even laugh at the public outcry. So, I appreciate you and others who have stood firm. I tried to reach out to you, but understandably your voice mailbox was full. I will follow-up to thank others who stand with you.

Many of my members have contacted legislators and I sent the following message to some members of the Assembly, with some slight variations.

"Please vote AGAINST the Sweeney/Christie Pen Ben bill. Please join and encourage other Democrats to stop this bill. When there are other less drastic ways to address budget concerns, how can anyone consider stripping workers rights? The proposal is to do this on the backs of working people, breaking them to the point where government no longer represents and protects them; but rather, creates new piercing problems for them, when they have already sacrificed more than enough. It is simply NOT fair! The immediate and growing harm that this bill will cause outweighs its proposed objectives. Please pull this bill and work with labor representatives to draft a new, more reasonable one.

As a Democrat, I want you to have the courage to stop this bill and insist that it be revisited. It will have a devastating effect on me financially and on many, many others that I know. As you reconsider, please demand that government work for the people and not sacrifice their well being!" This bill will cost low income and middle class workers up to $7,000 or more each year. This is simply unaffordable for the average family. It equates to $700 or more out of their pockets each month. Just imagine what this will do a teacher, firefighter or policeman trying to make ends meet in an already tough economy. So many family members are already unemployed, the foreclosure rate is high and to radically impose this legislation on already struggling, breadwinners in working families is simply unjust! Stop this bill and bring labor representatives to the table so that sensible measures can be taken to rectify problems.

The public outcry against this bill is not just rhetoric. People are suffering. I am not only a taxpaying and voting citizen who looks to representatives to make sensible decisions, I see on a day to day basis the negative impact of the financial fallout from the budget and funding reductions imposed last year. I pay taxes, I have paid into the pension system. I earn significantly less than others with my skill set. The basic provision of bargained health coverage should not be stripped from public employees. That was the trade-off for being able to give to children through my expertise and commitment to public education. WE take care of public needs, we provide services that allow others to thrive. So, I have no problem with paying taxes to support government and programs that make us who we are as Americans, but this bill goes far beyond basic Democratic responsiveness to public needs! It is too drastic and harmful!

The components of this bill should be bargained, not legislated. This problem can be fixed over time, but I fear that New Jersey is headed in the wrong direction at this point. Since when did educators, firefighters, policemen and other public workers become the enemy? We all know better. Easy targets, yes, but not the enemy. To pass this bill is to break the backs of workers!

Democrats have always stood for the working class. I urge you to vote, "No," and to urge others to vote, "No!" I am a lifelong Democrat and I fear that if Democrats in the Assembly do not stop this bill, November will tell a sad story!

Please vote "No!"

I would love to speak with you and others personally. Real reform can be good when it is reasonable and practical.

Thank you for your attention.

Katherine Cardona, President
Plainfield Education Association
1449A East Second St.
P.O. Box 2703
Plainfield, NJ 07062


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