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Vitale Statement On Efforts To Fight Privatization

Says Weak Economy is Wrong Time to Put People Out of Work

TRENTON – State Senator Joseph F. Vitale, D-Middlesex, a co-sponsor of SCR-131, a bill which would, with voter support, amend the State Constitution in order to dictate when and how the State could privatize certain public contracts in order to protect public employees’ jobs and vital State services, issued the following statement today in response to the campaign kick-off of a coordinated effort to oppose privatization:

“Earlier this month, I stood with the Teamsters union to oppose the closure of three C&S warehouses in my hometown of Woodbridge. Closing these warehouses would have meant putting more than 2,000 working-class men and women statewide out of a job. We pleaded with C&S executives to delay the closures, but they did not listen. At the end of the day, the company’s bottom line was more important to them than protecting people’s jobs.

“This dedication to profits over people is particularly why I believe privatizing State services – without necessary protections for employees and programs – sets a dangerous precedent. While I agree that more needs to be done to rein in waste and abuse which drives up the cost to the taxpayer, I worry that privatization will be viewed as a quick fix to our State’s economic problems. I fear that the chase for cost savings could result in a wholesale slashing of the State’s workforce and State services the people depend on in New Jersey.

“I support SCR-131 to amend the State Constitution to require the establishment of standards and procedures whenever State government, county government or municipal government seek to implement privatization. Under the Constitutional amendment, privatization could not occur unless services and employees were protected, and guarantees were made that privatizing the program in question would result in cost savings to the taxpayer.

“With the State’s unemployment rate standing at around 9 percent, a massive reduction in the public workforce, triggered by privatization, could place an undue burden on the State’s unemployment programs and make the hard decisions that many working-class families face in this tough economy even harder. Between the cost of health care, food, shelter, gas, and property taxes, many are going to be forced to do without basic necessities just to make ends meet.

“When privatization is considered, money cannot be our sole focus. We need to consider the impact on our State’s hard-working employees, and we need to consider the impact on the services that people depend on to survive. There is a human cost to privatization that I worry isn’t being considered by those people in government who are pushing privatization forward. SCR-131 would ask the voters to weigh all the options, and protect jobs, protect services, and ultimately, reduce the cost of government in the Garden State.”