Thursday, February 15, 2007

Has the Governor Gone Too Far?

For the past decade, New Jersey 's Governors have slowly but steadily politicized the State's system of higher education, from appointing "cronies" to serve on the Board of UMDNJ to "finding" jobs in New Jersey Higher Education for fellow politicians. Governor Corzine’s intervention in the union organizing drive underway at Rutgers is as troubling. For the State’s chief executive to get so intricately involved in the day-to-day management of the State University is quite unusual in and of itself, but for the Governor to actively promote this unionizing effort and go so far as to join the union's organizing rally is unacceptable. By exerting political pressure and influence on the President of Rutgers University, Richard McCormick, the Governor has also secured a “neutrality” agreement that prohibits the University from taking a position on the possible unionization and allows employees to promote unionization during work hours. Has the Governor gone too far?

While I come from a family of public school teachers and am generally supportive of unions and public employees, the demands of unions should not go unquestioned and certainly should not be given the stamp of approval by the Governor of the State before a thoughtful dialogue takes place. One of the union’s demands—the elimination of merit pay—could seriously undermine efforts underway at Rutgers to improve the delivery of services throughout the University’s administrative staff. If the union achieves its goal, the University's employees, most of whom work in the University’s notoriously dysfunctional bureaucracy, may no longer have an incentive to deliver quality customer service to students. This is but one of many issues that are deserving of debate.

Under Governor Corzine's leadership and that of his recent predecessors, the State has slashed funding for Rutgers, causing deep cuts in services and course offerings and significant tuition increases. Should the nonunionized employees at Rutgers be successful in their attempt to unionize, the newly unionized employees will likely receive salary increases and improved benefits. The Governor's full-fledged support for union organizing at Rutgers is akin to an unfunded mandate that will have to be paid for either through deeper cuts in services, tuition hikes at Rutgers, and/or tax increases for New Jersey residents.

Governor Corzine's active involvement in union organizing at Rutgers is just the latest example of his inexplicable affinity for placing the concerns of unions ahead of the interests of the great majority of New Jersey residents. The Governor of the State of New Jersey ideally represents all of our residents in the State's collective best interest. Governor Corzine seems to have forgotten this and instead has become a cheerleader-in-chief for union organizers to the detriment of Rutgers University and the residents of the State of New Jersey.

Michael M. Shapiro, Publisher and Managing Editor of, graduated from Rutgers College and Stanford Law School. Mike currently serves as the Chairman of the New Providence Democratic Party and Editor of The Alternative Press. Contact Mike at