The Straight-Face Awards

I’ve read a dozen articles about the New Jersey Education Association’s campaign against state senate president Steve Sweeney. Sweeney is a Democrat and an officer of the ironworkers’ union, but he’s under fire from NJEA for supporting pension reform. NJEA went as far as endorsing a pro-Trump Republican in Sweeney’s district.

This union-Democrat grudge match is getting a lot of national attention, but I’m more amused by the things being said by participants and close observers, presumably with a straight face.

Sen. Bob Smith (D-Middlesex) said, “The leadership of this union is unbelievably arrogant. I talked to other senators today and they are hot. There is going to be very long-term impact on relations with the NJEA.”

He added that if teachers knew how much money they were paying NJEA officers “there would be a revolution.”

This notion was repeated by Matt Hale, a political science professor at Seton Hall University, who said the NJEA campaign “could very well lead to revolt from the ground up.”

That’s hilarious. If I had a nickel for every time someone predicted a union rank-and-file revolution, I’d be able to pay Ed Richardson’s pension. The only thing that will have a very long-term impact on relations with NJEA is a Supreme Court ruling that ends agency fees. When teachers vote with their wallets, then we’ll know how they really feel about union officer pay.

“Our concern is with the people who get elected, not the party that they belong to,” said NJEA spokesman Steve Baker.

C’mon man. Just last week NJEA endorsed 98 candidates for the state legislature. By my count 89 are Democrats.

Finally, there is this irate response by the aforementioned NJEA executive director Ed Richardson to a column about his compensation written by Tom Moran of the Newark Star-Ledger. Richardson defends his pay by comparing himself to Sweeney.

That allegiance probably explains how Tom can write a column ostensibly about union officials’ compensation without mentioning the fact that Sweeney’s union compensation, according to the most recent filings by his union, is over $235,000 for what is, presumably a part-time job. Approximately one-third of his work in that job, according to the same filing, is lobbying and political work.

I say that job is presumably part-time, because Sweeney also gets a taxpayer-funded salary of over $65,000 as Senate President, a position widely acknowledged as the second most powerful elected office in New Jersey, with commensurate responsibilities. So the $235,000 he earns from his union for work done in his off hours is a pretty good salary indeed.

Well, he’s right about one thing: a six-figure union salary for work done in off hours is pretty good. That’s why I wrote a column about it last week. I’m sure Richardson shared his concerns with NYSUT about the stewardship of member dues.

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