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Letter to Members: New Jersey Transit Bargaining Update

Published: Feb 24 2016 9:57AM

February 17, 2016

To: All BMWED-IBT Members

Re: New Jersey Transit Bargaining Update

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Our Union faces a grave situation and challenge in bargaining with New Jersey Transit (NJT).  We are negotiating in a coalition with all 16 other crafts to secure a new agreement on NJT. After nearly five long years of negotiations and two Presidential Emergency Boards (PEBs), we are free to go on strike at 12:01 a.m. on March 12, 2016, and NJT is free to lock us out if a new agreement is not reached. This labor dispute affects every single member of our Union, as the Governor of New Jersey appears committed to making an “example” out of working people who are fighting for decent wages and benefits.

We are working closely with the other crafts, and as of this writing, no decision has been made about what we will do on March 12. We will show unity and solidarity with the collective decision, because our success depends on our ability to stick together. All of the crafts, including ours, are willing to accept the mediocre recommendations of the two PEBs in order to resolve the contract. We do not like these recommendations, but we can live with them. Given the fact that two PEBs have made essentially the same recommendations, we do not see a way forward that will improve upon them.

Unfortunately, the Governor of New Jersey, Chris Christie, will not accept the recommendations. The State of New Jersey has now placed health care concessions on the table that will significantly increase the cost of health care for NJT employees. These concessions were never on the bargaining table in the last five years, and NJT did not argue them before the PEBs. In other words, they are last minute demands designed to provoke a confrontation and the very definition of bad faith bargaining. If NJT is successful, it will make health care too expensive for our members on NJT. In addition, it will have a profoundly negative impact on our current negotiations at our National Freight and Amtrak bargaining tables. 

A negative outcome in this struggle is unacceptable. We are pledging all of the resources of the Union to ensure that we secure a just and reasonable contract for our Brothers and Sisters on NJT. The highest levels of discipline and solidarity in the leadership and the membership will be necessary to ensure a successful struggle. Make no mistake about this situation. We are at war, and it is not a war of our choosing or our making, but it is a war in which we will engage with every resource that this Union has at its disposal. It is a war we will win. Surrender is not an option, for it will only encourage those anti-union politicians who think they can make a career out of attacking the living standards of working people.

We do not know what March 12 will bring. It could bring a lock out. It could bring a strike. It could bring a contract extension. We will work closely with the other crafts as we work to bring this to a successful conclusion. At best, the situation will be day-to-day and very chaotic. In addition to your solidarity, we also ask you for your patience, and as information becomes available, it will be quickly posted.

However, if we are unable to make a just and reasonable settlement and the Christie administration insists on tactics designed to break our Unions, we will not stand by idly and permit that to happen. Under the law, we have the right to engage in sympathy strikes to ensure that the Union is protected on NJT. Sometime after March 12, 2016, you may be asked to engage in such a strike and withdraw services in a secondary strike at a time and place determined by our National Union. We must remain disciplined and without fear. 

We will show NJT and the rest of the railroad industry that an “Injury to One, Is an Injury to All,” and if you come for one of us you will need to come for all of us.

In solidarity,

Freddie N. Simpson
National Division President