Honoring Sacrifice, Facing Challenges and Celebrating Successes
I would like to thank all my brothers and sisters in blue for their kind thoughts, prayers, cards, texts, phone calls and visits during my emergency hospital stay last month. It’s not until an emergency happens that you realize how fragile life really is. Let’s remember, the Lord gave us yesterday for the memories and today to live, but no one promised us tomorrow.
As we observe National Police Week in May, let us never forget the 199 members of the law enforcement community who made the supreme sacrifice last year for the citizens of this great country. Among the heroes we lost are two from New Jersey. Never forget their families, who return home from the memorial in Washington, D.C., without their loved ones, with only their memories.
Right now, we have a serious labor case in front of the U.S. Supreme Court, Janus v. AFSCME out of Illinois. The decision is due in May or June. Current law requires all members to choose whether or not to join the bargaining unit. However, the bargaining unit is required to negotiate on behalf of all workers, regardless of whether they belong or not. Since everyone benefits from the bargaining unit’s gains, it’s only fair that everyone contributes toward the cost. This contribution is known as the fair-share fee. Fair-share members are known as the 85-percenters in New Jersey. This cost-sharing arrangement has been in effect for over 40 years, since it was unanimously approved by the U.S. Supreme Court. This case challenges that precedent under the First Amendment (freedom of speech), arguing that non–bargaining unit members pay their fair share but don’t have their voices heard because they are not members. A similar case was heard in 2016, Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association, and the court’s decision was 4–4 (when there were only eight judges following the death of Antonin Scalia), so nothing changed. We don’t think this case will have the same conclusion. The FOP feels that the unions will lose 5–4. This will make bargaining units responsible for all fees, without monetary help from non-members.
Our major pieces of legislation since the beginning of the year have been S-5 and A-3671. These are companion bills that will transfer the control of your PFRS pension to a board of trustees that we, the membership, control. These bills were pushed through their respective houses of the Legislature, passing in the Senate 34–2 and in the Assembly 67–2 in late March. The bill is now on Governor Murphy’s desk, awaiting his signature. At the time I am writing this article, we have heard rumors that the governor may have some concerns with the bill. If this is true, we are hoping that we can resolve the issues and he can sign the bill into law.
In closing, I want to remind you that it’s still a tough time for the law enforcement community today on the street. Be safe and remember that every situation has the potential of being filmed and scrutinized.