New Jersey Teachers Union Cuts Off Pension Reform Talks With Christie


When New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie first revealed the reform proposals suggested by his pension commission, he was happy to say that the state was already deep in talks with the New Jersey Education Association (NJEA) over possible pension changes.

But NJEA officials said Christie jumped the gun on announcing the union’s willingness to negotiate changes – and now they’re backing out of the talks entirely.


“NJEA has notified the New Jersey Pension and Benefits Study Commission that our sole focus is ensuring that our members’ current pensions are fully funded by the state, and that no further discussion will be occurring between the NJEA and the commission,” Wendell Steinhauer, president of the teachers union, said in a statement.

Steinhauer said the union regretted signing onto an agreement with the commission on a broad “roadmap” for reform, and blamed Christie for misrepresenting the magnitude of the pact.

Christie’s proposal, unveiled with some surprise during his budget address, called for freezing pensions and enrolling union members in investment plans more in line with a 401(k) offered in the private sector. It would also have required public workers to agree to concessions in their health-care coverage.

The breakdown in talks comes as the state’s labor unions and Christie prepare to battle before the state Supreme Court over pension funding. The state has appealed a trial court ruling that Christie breached the contractual rights of public employees to full pension payments under a 2011 law.

It’s possible that Christie thought the talks were going more smoothly than they really were; it’s also possible union officials didn’t appreciate the magnitude of the propose reforms when they initially agreed to begin negotiations.

Either way, the state has lost its largest in-road with a union, which will make the “roadmap to reform” more difficult to follow going forward.


Photo by Bob Jagendorf from Manalapan, NJ, USA (NJ Governor Chris Christie) [CC BY 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

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