Unions, tea party clash over benefits in N.J.

    Thousands of union members demonstrated outside the Statehouse in Trenton Friday to protest state government efforts to cut public employees’ benefits.

    They stood in the rain to hear union officials support the collective bargaining rights of workers in Wisconsin. They also objected to Gov. Chris Christie’s efforts to have public employees contribute more for their pension and health care benefits.

    “We will continue to fight together as long as it takes to get a fair budget, to get fair contracts, to defend our health care, not to have our health care stripped away from us,” vowed Larry Cohen, international president of the Communications Workers of America,

    A short distance away, tea party members held their own rally to support the governor’s plans.

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    Barbara Davis, the co-chair of the Cherry Hill Tea Party, said taxpayers can’t afford the benefits public workers get.

    “We have no more money, and there needs to be an unselfishness and a reality check with these people,” she said.

    Union officials said the proposed benefit reductions are an assault on the middle class.

    “They’ve taken a lot from us, but they can’t take our freedom,” said Richard Trumka, president of the national AFL-CIO, in the midst of a cheering crowd. “They can’t take away our right to come together and bargain for a middle class way of life.”

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