Testimony before the Assembly Education Committee

by NJEA President Barbara Keshishian on A-3627
Feb. 11, 2013

Good afternoon Members of the Assembly Education Committee.  Chairman Diegnan, thank you for posting this bill on today’s agenda.  Assemblywoman Wagner, thank you for your co-sponsorship.

A-3627, sponsored by Assemblyman Conaway and Assemblywoman Wagner, would provide employees in school districts and county colleges important job protections when subcontracting is being considered at their place of employment. 

Let me be clear that this bill does not prohibit a school district from entering into a subcontracting agreement. 

If this bill is enacted, school districts and county colleges will still be able to privatize services. 

A-3627 simply provides a common sense approach to balancing the needs of an employer and employees. 

It says that the employer cannot enter into a subcontracting agreement when an existing contract is in place.  Simply said, you cannot break the contract that the employer and employee have already agreed to.

This bill also ensures that certain conditions are met before an employer can seek to privatize.  Those conditions include providing written notice to the employee representative at least 90 days prior to an effort to subcontract.  Why is this necessary?  Because employees should have some advance notice to prepare for the possibility of termination. 

A-3627 would also require the employer to offer the employee representative the opportunity to sit and discuss the subcontracting effort.  This is for the benefit of the employer, just as much as for the employees. 

Given the threat of privatization, an employee representative might be able to identify other cost savings to help the school district achieve its budgetary goals.  Employees should be offered an opportunity to help find a solution to the problem.  A school is a community.  We are all in this together and we should all pull together to meet fiscal challenges.

New Jersey would not be alone in providing these protections to its school employees.  Our neighbors in Pennsylvania already require school employers to negotiate with employees over the impact of subcontracting.  This can often yield to the school district achieving its outcome, albeit by different means.

We understand that we are in a difficult economy.  New Jersey continues to have over 9 percent unemployment.  We know our school districts are under great pressure to find taxpayer savings.  We also do not believe that anyone wants to see the woman who serves our children lunch, who has been on the job for 30 years, lose her job or the bus driver whose familiar face greets our children every morning suddenly gone. 

With this bill, employees will be in a better position to work with their employer to find solutions in tough budget situations. 

This bill is truly about protecting employers and employees.  It will help our boards of education and county college boards of trustees and it will protect our cafeteria workers, bus drivers, secretaries, paraprofessionals, and so many other employees who help make our school districts and county colleges REAL communities. 

Thank you for your support of this bill.