Norcross is No Union Champion

As an NJEA union member, you’ll find Donald Norcross and I share similar pro-union values. Our unions are how we’ve come to provide safety, litigious, and financial security for our members. Passing the PRO Act is a priority. Workers deserve the right to organize, intimidation-free. Workers deserve a livable wage. Workers deserve safe working conditions. Despite Norcross' claims of being a workers' rights champion, his actions have undermined workers and union members for the past decade. 

Voted to raise healthcare costs, retirement age, & freeze cost-of-living adjustments for New Jersey public employees

Even after facing "intense push-back by the state's influential unions," Donald Norcross voted for Chapter 78, which increased public employees’ healthcare costs. Despite annual raises, a larger chunk of those raises were going towards health insurance premiums. In fact, under Chapter 78, “most New Jersey public employees [were] paying more than the national average for state government workers toward their health insurance costs." 

 

This bill increased the retirement age and raised pension contribution rates from 5.5% to 7.5% for public employees and 8.5% to 10% for police and firefighters. It also froze cost-of-living adjustments (COLA) for retired workers. This means, as the cost of living continues to rise, pensions lose their value. Over the past 11 years, pensions have lost 25% of their original value. Considering recent unprecedented inflation, the situation is especially dire and over 27,000 have signed a petition demanding relief.

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Failure to support legislation that would reduce healthcare costs, prevent members from losing health insurance after losing a job, & boost wages

Health insurance benefits are one of the most significant challenges during union contract negotiations because of out-of-control healthcare costs. Over the past decade, wages rose by 27% while health insurance premiums rose by 55% and deductibles rose by 111%. Employers often have to choose between giving employees raises or paying for higher health insurance premiums. 

There is a way to achieve far cheaper healthcare costs. Yale University suggests single-payer universal healthcare would save $450B annually via insurance disintermediation - cutting out the middlemen profiteers like the Norcross insurance brokerage. The Economic Policy Institute suggests these savings would boost wages and salaries, increase job quality, and lessen the stress and economic shock of losing a job - workers wouldn’t lose their jobs if they lost their health insurance.

The federal government released a report which outlined further benefits for workers: Households would "work fewer hours and retire at younger ages under a single-payer healthcare system." They could "spend time on activities other than work and maintain the same standard of living."

Unions realize this potential savings for its members. That's why the UMWA, IATSE, IBEW (Norcross' own union), NNU, TAU, NYNA, NEA, AM, CSEA, UE, UAW, AFA, AFL-CIO, CLUW, ILWU, and APWU joined a coalition for the sole purpose of supporting single-payer, universal healthcare

Despite all of these benefits, Donald Norcross was unconvinced of the need for universal healthcare - during a global health emergency. I led a year-long initiative to compel his support on this issue. I met with Norcross' staff, held a press conference, rallied at his office, wrote press releases, and provided testimony. None of this was enough to compel his support until I announced a primary challenge against him centered on this issue. 

Failure to support legislation which would guarantee safe work conditions for health care workers

Nurses were treated horribly during the pandemic. Despite being celebrated as healthcare heroes, they had to fight for safe staffing minimums and begged for adequate PPE. The CDC told them to make their own mask if they didn’t have one. They were asked to work in environments of deficiency while hospital systems were granted billions in federal aid. Hospital systems operated like corporations as they invested in off-shore tax havens and their executives made millions. The reality is hospital greed contributed to this problem.

This stress resulted in nurses joining the Great Resignation. As many nurses sought employment with temporary agencies, they found new leverage over their prior employers. Many returned to work for hospitals as temporary nursing staff on their own terms for far better pay.

Donald Norcross and a group of legislators are trying to dilute this leverage and called for an investigation and pay cap: “This situation is urgent and the reliance on temporary workers has caused normal staffing costs to balloon….Hospitals have no choice but to pay these exorbitant rates because of the dire workforce needs facing hospitals around the country.” The reality is, if hospitals had paid their nurses fairly and didn't understaff units for the sake of profits, nurses wouldn't have left.

Donald Norcross was quick to act on behalf of the American Hospital Association, one of his donors, but isn't working to support nurses. There's a bill in Congress right now that would require hospitals to staff units with safe nurse/patient ratios - HR 3165 the Nurse Staffing Standards for Hospital Patient Safety and Quality Care Act. The American Hospital Association has taken a strong stance against the bill while National Nurses United, the largest organization of Nurses in the country, supports the bill.

Donald Norcross has not signed onto this bill.