Calls on Negotiations to Reach Compromise
(TRENTON) – Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto on Wednesday said legislation that would allow the state to take over Atlantic City must protect collective bargaining rights for police, firefighters and other workers.
“Everyone knows Atlantic City needs help, but we cannot do so while trampling collective bargaining rights,” said Prieto (D-Hudson/Bergen). “Collective bargaining rights should be sacrosanct, notably for police and firefighters who put their lives at risk daily. We can accomplish our goals for Atlantic city while respecting the rights of police, firefighters and workers.”
The Speaker said he would not stand in the way of any negotiated agreement between the governor’s office, Atlantic City’s mayor and city council and its public worker unions, but he otherwise wants any takeover bill to protect collective bargaining.
He also called for tempering rhetoric and convening a meeting between the governor, legislative leaders and city officials to reach a compromise.
“The time for negotiating through press conferences and radio sound bites is over,” Prieto said. “It’s time for everyone to sit down, look each other in the eye and resolve this the right way.”
Prieto noted the state already has significant power to intervene in Atlantic City under the Local Government Supervision Act of 1947, which the state has used since 2010 to oversee the city’s government under the Local Finance Board and Division of Local Government Services. The state also has authority through the transitional state aid program to compel financial actions by the city.
Meanwhile, Atlantic City has made major budget cuts and implemented recommendations from the emergency manager appointed by the governor via executive order in January 2015.
“We don’t need to destroy collective bargaining rights to fix Atlantic City,” Prieto said. “The state and the governor already have sufficient power over Atlantic City’s finances to prevent a financial disaster, and aid agreements allow the state to compel financial actions. The governor used his own executive authority to appoint an emergency manager and special consultant, supposedly to oversee a comprehensive overhaul of Atlantic City’s government. I will not run roughshod over collective bargaining rights when it’s clearly not necessary.”
Among other changes the Speaker is seeking in the bill is ensuring the city would not be exempt from unfair labor practice rules and limiting the scope of the bill to Atlantic City.
“A solution that protects the principle of collective bargaining while assuring the people of Atlantic City basic services will continue to be provided is within reach, as long as everyone is willing to sit down and reach a common sense agreement based on facts,” Prieto said.