Gov. Chris Christie hit the interview circuit Wednesday touting his version of tough love for public sector employees.
Christie has been asked several times in recent days to compare the situation in New Jersey to those playing out in Wisconsin and Indiana, where organized labor is in revolt over the proposed elimination of collective bargaining.
But Christie, who has not been shy about taking on the powerful public employee unions, stopped short of calling for New Jersey to end the process by which employees negotiate their contracts.
“I’m not saying it’s just about collective bargaining, Ann. Because even in states as you point out, where collective bargaining doesn’t exist, legislators have been too generous to public employees over time,” Christie told Today Show host Ann Curry. “So it’s not just an issue of collective bargaining. It’s an issue of wanting to say yes all the time as a public official. You never want to say no to anybody because oh, you’re much more popular if you say yes. You know what? It’s time to say no to things, to be able to say yes to the things that will help to grow our economy and to create a more prosperous future.”
Christie sounded a similar tone when asked the question by the New York Times.
“I don’t think that there are a lot of parallels between what’s going on there and what’s going on in New Jersey,” Christie said Wednesday. “In New Jersey, I’m ready to embrace the collective-bargaining situation, but don’t tell me that I can’t go back to the legislature to undo some of the things that you got done through the legislature.”
But the governor’s labor sympathies go only so far. Last week, several public employee unions called on the governor to begin contract negotiations now, before proposed legislation increasing employee contributions to health benefits is passed by the legislature. Asked about the request form the unions, Christie took on a mocking tone, saying unions have no problem with legislating benefits when it works in their favor.
Later a spokesman for the governor echoed the governor’s remarks.
“The inconsistency is remarkable,” spokesman Michael Drewniak told PolitickerNJ. “They don’t complain when legislation gives them something but here we are trying to rein in some benefits and they complain.”