Legislation a win for New Jersey workers, health services

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When New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie outlined his plans for education in January, he floated a proposal to reorganize Rutgers University, the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, University Hospital and Rowan University. The plan Christie proposed would have a huge—and largely negative—impact on healthcare workers represented by Health Professionals and Allied Employees at UMDNJ and University Hospital.

HPAE members faced the loss of jobs, union rights, pensions and other benefits. Christie's proposal would also have eroded the public mission of UMDNJ and University Hospital as well as their commitment to the communities they serve.

To prevent these potential losses from becoming reality, HPAE members launched an unprecedented political mobilization. Members lobbied relentlessly, meeting with legislators, sending thousands of e-mails and post cards, and holding town hall meetings and forums. In addition, the union joined a broad coalition representing the more than 30,000 employees at UMDNJ, Rutgers and Rowan. Along with its partners in the Coalition for Higher Education and Healthcare, HPAE worked to secure important protections for the sustainability of University Hospital, including a focus on community and hospital healthcare services, workplace rights, community involvement and transparency, and the integrity of its higher education institutions.

The efforts of HPAE and the coalition brought success in late June when the New Jersey Senate and State Assembly passed the New Jersey Medical and Health Sciences Education Restructuring Act. The new law will transfer all of UMDNJ's schools and units, except for the School of Osteopathic Medicine and University Hospital, to Rutgers University. The School of Osteopathic Medicine will be transferred to Rowan University, and University Hospital will become a separate entity managed by a private nonprofit hospital.

With the passage of that legislation, the nurses and health professionals at UMDNJ won the protection of their status as public employees. They also maintained their collective bargaining rights and bargaining units as well as their current contracts, seniority, and pension and health benefits. All of the current services at University Hospital, and collaborative health services with Rutgers University, will remain intact. In addition, amendments were added to the legislation to ensure University Hospital will continue to provide charity care for low-income patients.

The changes will be effective July 1, 2013. [Adrienne Coles/Health Professionals and Allied Employees]

July 9, 2012