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Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey speaking at an event hosted by The McCain Institute in Phoenix, Arizona.
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is once again taking aim at a favorite target: his state's public workers. And he's once again taking money from them. In his first term as governor, Christie pushed for pension changes, with workers paying more of their wages into the pension fund, raising the retirement age, and other cuts. The workers were forced to make up a large part of a pension fund shortfall because the state had failed to contribute its share to the fund. But Christie was also supposed to make bigger payments to the pension fund. Now, of course, he's backing out of that commitment, taking money that was supposed to go to workers' pensions to plug a hole in his budget:
A payment to the pension fund scheduled to be made before June 30 will be reduced — from $1.6 billion to $696 million — via executive order, Christie said.

The governor also intends to shrink a $2.25 billion payment that was set for the next fiscal year to $681 million, but said he will seek the Democratic-controlled Legislature’s approval for that move.

Of course, Christie is taking money from public workers rather than taxing the wealthy a little bit more. Of f'ing course he is.

The New Jersey Education Association and Communications Workers of America are suing to block the plan. Another big question is how the legislature will respond to the ask. Will the politically damaged governor get the kind of cooperation he has in the past?

Continue reading for more of the week's labor and education news.

A fair day's wage

  • As "transportation cliff" nears, unions rally for public transit.
  • As a fifth NFL cheerleader wage theft lawsuit, check out 11 indignities cheerleaders face.
  • You know about the Republican war on workers' rights, but that doesn't mean Corey Robin's overview of it won't teach you something. And it contains this gem:
    What might Adam Smith, often claimed as the intellectual godfather of the American right, have said about these legislative efforts? “Whenever the legislature attempts to regulate the differences between masters and their workmen,” wrote Smith in “The Wealth of Nations,” “its counsellors are always the masters. When the regulation, therefore, is in favour of the workmen, it is always just and equitable; but it is sometimes otherwise when in favour of the masters.”
  • Here's the painful truth about what it means to be "working poor" in America.
  • How far your paycheck goes in 356 U.S. cities.
  • I was aware that court fees were an issue in keeping poor people caught up in the criminal justice system, but didn't realize how dramatically they were increasing:
    These fees — which can add up to hundreds or even thousands of dollars — get charged at every step of the system, from the courtroom, to jail, to probation. Defendants and offenders pay for their own arrest warrants, their court-ordered drug and alcohol-abuse treatment and to have their DNA samples collected. They are billed when courts need to modernize their computers. In Washington state, for example, they even get charged a fee for a jury trial — with a 12-person jury costing $250, twice the fee for a six-person jury. [...]

    In Washington state, for example, there's 12 percent interest on costs in felony cases that accrues from the moment of judgment until all fines, fees, restitution and interest are paid off in full. As a result, it can be hard for someone who's poor to make that debt ever go away. One state commission found that the average amount in felony cases adds up to $2,500. If someone paid a typical amount — $10 a month — and never missed a payment, his debt would keep growing. After four years of faithful payments, the person would now owe $3,000.

    It's one of those things that doesn't really register as a problem for upper middle-class policymakers, but one mistake or misdemeanor or miscarriage of justice can dominate a poor person's life for years.


  • How one teacher is evaluated. Absurd.
  • Another student dies after falling sick at a Philadelphia school with no nurse on duty:
    "We had a very tragic day at Jackson Elementary," says School District of Philadelphia spokesperson Fernando Gallard. Gallard says that the  boy showed signs of distress in the classroom and was given CPR by one of three trained adults in the classroom. They called 911 immediately and an ambulance arrived to take him to Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. He died an unknown time later.

    The details of the boy's condition (the student has not yet been identified) are unclear. But Ann Smigiel, Jackson's nurse, worries that she might have been able to prevent it had she been on duty. [...]

    Smigiel works at Jackson only on Thursdays and every other Friday. Until five years ago, Smigiel says that she was present at Jackson every single day. Smigiel says that she has worked at Jackson for 12 years, and worked for 15 years prior in an emergency room.

  • Just how meaningful are those value-added ratings?
    In a study that appears in the current issue of the American Educational Research Journal, Noelle A. Paufler and Audrey Amrein-Beardsley, a doctoral candidate and an associate professor at Arizona State University, respectively, conclude that elementary school students are not randomly distributed into classrooms. That finding is significant because random distribution of students is a technical assumption that underlies some value-added models.

Originally posted to Daily Kos Labor on Sat May 24, 2014 at 10:55 AM PDT.

Also republished by Christie Watch and Daily Kos.

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