I support unions. While the consequences of the recent pension deal between Governor Christie and Trenton lawmakers remains to be seen, now is the time for New Jerseyans to consider how best to protect the middle class in an era of high unemployment and declining pay. Unlike my opponents, Assemblywoman Amy Handlin and Assemblyman Declan O'Scanlon, I recognize that union membership translates into higher wages and better workplace conditions for Garden State workers.Handlin and O'Scanlon not only want to reform public employee benefits -- an idea that has merits -- they want to restrict the rights of private sector workers to negotiate with management.
O'Scanlon is the sponsor of a bill that repeals the New Jersey Prevailing Wage Act and the Public Works Contractor Registration Act, a move that essentially ends prevailing wage standards. That's an assault not only on union members, but on non-union construction workers and others in the building trades who rely on fair wage protections as a guarantee that they will be paid at a rate commensurate with their work.
Just this month, O'Scanlon and Handlin introduced a bill that makes New Jersey a “Right to Work” state. Although the legislation was pronounced dead on arrival, I am disappointed that my opponents are pursuing such a radical agenda. Right to work really means right to be fired. Passage of Handlin and O'Scanlon's legislation will result in lower wages and have a negative impact on workers safety and health.
My opponents are not only on the wrong side of working families, but quite literally, they are writing the laws that will set back the clock one hundred years and remove the protections that helped build our middle class.
It is important that New Jerseyans, especially those residing in the Thirteenth Legislative District, understand that the current debate extends far beyond public employee pensions. Elected officials should do everything in their power to protect taxpayers. While in office, I did just that. However, Garden State workers -- both union and non-union -- deserve to know that Handlin and O'Scanlon seek to undermine the very provisions that have allowed countless families to enter the middle class. I want no part in that, and if I am fortunate enough to be elected to the Assembly, I will be a champion of working families.
Kevin M. Lavan
Kevin M. Lavan served as Mayor of Hazlet Township from 2009-2010. He is the Democratic candidate for General Assembly in the Thirteenth Legislative District.