Surrounded by trade union executives and other supporters of organized labor at the opening of the union-backed Carpenters Training Center, Gov. Phil Murphy was among his most fervent supporters, the foundation on which his successful campaign was built.
“I think we were extremely important and instrumental in getting him elected,” said Lizette Delgado-Polanco, political director for the Northeast Regional Council of Carpenters.
Polanco is also the Democratic State Committee vice chair, who had a front row seat in the Murphy campaign. She says after eight years of a combative administration in Trenton, electing a progressive Democrat was critical.
“And I think he is 100 percent dedicated to making sure that organized labor is part of the agenda of the state,” she added.
John Ballantyne of the Northeast Regional Council of Carpenters called Murphy one of the greatest leaders in the state of New Jersey.
“[He’s] someone that, as we moved forward over the last three years building a relationship with, we recognized shared the same core principles of our union — to make sure that people had a fair opportunity in the workplace, that they had a voice in the workplace. That certainly, coupled that with a stronger and fairer economy, recognized that through a union is where people will find their way into the middle class,” he said.
But Murphy’s ties to unions have strained some relationships with key supporters, including Senate President Steve Sweeney, and it’s raised questions among some as to whether he will be able to hold his own against organized labor when it comes time to negotiate agreements, or changes to health benefits plans.
“We’ll see,” said Republican Assemblyman Anthony Bucco. “We’ll see where the negotiation goes, but we’re already seeing some of that breakdown within their own party. I think you see it going back and forth between the Senate president and the speaker and the Governor’s Office. We’ll see what happens as they continue to meet during the next couple of months as this budget gets rolled out.”
“The governor, his staff and a lot of his commissioners understand that the collective bargaining process is put in place for a reason,” added Polanco. “You work, you sit at the table, you work it out and then you come to an agreement and I don’t think it’s going to be any more difficult for him or for the unions because that’s what bargaining is about.”
As for the governor, he was his usual reluctant self but stopped a minute to congratulate the unions and management for establishing the training center. As for what he expected from any upcoming negotiations with organized labor, he simply said, “We’re good.”