Union workers demand full NJ payment to pension system

Hundreds of union members jammed the sidewalks and street outside the New Jersey Statehouse in Trenton, loudly protesting Gov. Chris Christie’s cut in payments into the public employees pension system.

Christie’s decision to withhold payments mandated by law four years ago is an attack on the rights of public employees, said Sherryl Gordon is executive director of AFSCME Council 1.

“The state has a responsibility to pay us our pensions,” Gordon said. “We paid our part, we put in our time, and we want to be paid.”

Lizette Delgado-Polanco, the executive director of the Service Employees International Union New Jersey Council, told the crowd that Christie has been a big disappointment.

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“He is as out of touch as much as he has been out of town,” she said. “The problem is Gov. Christie does the wrong thing even when he is here.” Christie was in New Hampshire Tuesday.

Senate President Steve Sweeney told the protesters the 2011 agreement for higher state payments is a commitment that cannot be broken.

“If this was in the private sector, this would be theft,” said Sweeney. “I am committed to fight this to the death.”

Hetty Rosenstein, the New Jersey director of the Communications Workers of America, said the rally sends a clear message.

“We’re going to save this pension no matter what,” she said. “We’ll do whatever it takes, and we believe we will win.”

The state Supreme Court heard arguments last week on whether New Jersey must pay more in the current fiscal year.

A lower court is waiting for a ruling until deciding on the governor’s planned contribution for next year.

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