Over the past several months the City of Newark and the unions that represent the city’s firefighters and police officers have been at odds over the implementation of a plan to transition the provision of health care benefits to the State Health Benefits Plan. While the sides have gone back and forth in private, in council meetings and now in the press, one fact that appears perfectly clear is that huge failures occurred with the negotiations by a Business Administrator with a long history of attacks on public safety unions and his botched roll out of the plan. Jack Kelly was also complicit in a DCA plan to layoff all of Harrison FMBA Local 22’s firefighters in retaliation for their refusal to accept an unsafe work schedule.
Statement from the NJ State FMBA President Ed Donnelly on the Continued Attacks on Health Care
Because of the pulpit afforded to the Mayor of New Jersey’s largest city, his words are more impactful and, potentially harmful, statewide, and I could not stay silent on what he offered yesterday to the media. The FMBA understands this is an attack larger than the confines of Newark, and although Newark’s firefighters are not members of the NJ FMBA, as we have shown numerous times before, we will speak out against any effort that has the potential of harming first responders. We will always be there to support Firefighters wherever they work or whichever union flag they fly.
Like our members, Newark’s first responders seek only to receive the benefits they have negotiated for in good faith. Unfortunately, like many others, they are now falling victims to an environment, created by Governor Chris Christie, where it is fashionable to attempt to throw contracts out the window, and pit the public against public employees.
Our Governor has proven his way of doing business has failed miserably, yet his same tired playbook has been used again in Newark. Many of the “facts” included in this op-ed have nothing at all to do with the health care proposal being discussed, and instead only serves to further an “us versus them” argument.
We should not apologize for the compensation we receive for the jobs we do, and while we go into these jobs knowing of the inherent risks, it doesn’t make the fact that any shift truly can be our last, any less severe.
What is often overlooked however, is that our members are also paying 10% of our salaries to our pension, on average of $10,000 annually for our healthcare, in most instances don’t receive social security, and are much more likely than others to suffer from debilitating illnesses and injuries as a result of the years of extreme exposure our bodies and minds endure throughout a normal career.
The benefits we earn are needed to provide a critical lifeline to a healthy and financially secure retirement after years of running towards emergencies other are running from.
As the Mayor of New Jersey's largest city, one beset with many challenges, you would hope he would have more admiration for and willingness to partner closely with the same unions that are working so hard to make sure his city's best days are ahead. Yet, instead of working to solve the problem, he chose to air his grievances, and what can only be viewed as an anti first responder mentality, in the press. As a Democrat, you would also expect him to have a healthier respect for the role of unions in providing voices to their members, and for the sanctity of collective bargaining. However, through his recent words and his inactions against a business administrator who has caused embarrassment to his city and undo hardships for the cities employees he seems to have thrown it all away for some bad press.