Ten NJ Locals of Mass-Transit Union Deliver Endorsement to Murphy

Ten NJ Locals of Mass-Transit Union Deliver Endorsement to Murphy
  1. Ten NJ Locals of Mass-Transit Union Deliver Endorsement to Murphy
    Amalgamated Transit Union’s 8,000 rank and file comprise NJ Transit bus drivers, Newark light-rail o…
    New Jersey (NJ)

An influential labor organization that represents thousands of New Jersey’s mass-transit workers has decided to pick a side with only weeks left before the Democratic gubernatorial primary.

The 10 New Jersey locals of the Amalgamated Transit Union announced yesterday that they are endorsing Democratic frontrunner Phil Murphy, citing a mass-transit platform that Murphy recently put forward that calls for increased funding for New Jersey Transit’s operating budget out of the state’s own annual spending plan.

“It’s time to elect a governor who recognizes that we have a transportation crisis,” said Ray Greaves, chairman of the New Jersey State Council of the Amalgamated Transit Union, during a news conference the union held in Newark yesterday.

“The ATU believes Phil Murphy is up to the challenge,” said Greaves, who also serves as a nonvoting member on NJ Transit’s board of directors.

‘Incredibly honored’

Murphy, a Middletown resident and former U.S. ambassador to Germany, also attended the news conference, saying he was “incredibly honored” to pick up the union’s endorsement.

“It’s not that long ago that New Jersey was held up as a model,” Murphy said of the state’s mass-transit system. “I want to be the guy working with you all to get us back so we can say that again.”

Though maybe not as important an endorsement as those Murphy has already locked up from Democratic county party leaders across the state, securing the backing of the 8,000-member union of NJ Transit bus drivers and Newark light-rail operators will now make it that much harder for the other Democrats who are seeking to make up ground against Murphy in the final weeks of the primary season.

Murphy, 59, is a newcomer to elected politics, but he received 26 percent of the support from voters who were recently surveyed by Quinnipiac University. That put him well ahead of the other candidates, former U.S. Treasury official Jim Johnson, state Sen. Ray Lesniak, and state Assemblyman John Wisniewski, who were all grouped together in the single digits and within the poll’s 2.8 percent margin of error.

Key endorsements

A former Goldman Sachs executive who was also the finance chair for the Democratic National Committee under Howard Dean, Murphy has also won endorsements from other key organizations in recent weeks, including environmental groups like the New Jersey Sierra Club. Former Vice President Joe Biden will also be coming to New Jersey later this month to hold a rally with Murphy, according to his campaign.

Mass transit has emerged as a major issue in the Democratic primary this year thanks to a series of problems that NJ Transit commuters have been dealing with in recent weeks, including two derailments at Penn Station in New York and near-regular delays and overcrowded conditions. The problems have also come in the wake of two fare hikes that have been put into effect in recent years by Gov. Chris Christie’s administration, as well as a series of service cutbacks.

Christie, a second-term Republican who cannot run for reelection due to the state constitution’s term limits, has faced sharp criticism for his own handling of NJ Transit, including a 2010 decision to stop construction on the long-planned Access to the Region’s Core trans-Hudson rail tunnel. He’s also significantly reduced the subsidy out of the annual state budget for NJ Transit, relying instead on funds diverted from the New Jersey Turnpike Authority and the state’s Clean Energy Fund to help maintain state aid for the agency.

Promising more for NJT

All four leading Democratic candidates in the June 6 primary have pledged to deliver more financial support for NJ Transit, and Republican hopeful Jack Ciattarelli has also released a plan for NJ Transit that would provide the agency with more aid by establishing a reciprocal income-tax agreement with New York.

But in addition to calling for more funding…

phil murphy
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