Thursday, February 20, 2014

Why privatizing toll collection is a horrible idea

If the New Jersey Turnpike Commission privatizes toll collection, workers who have already taken enormous cuts to pay and benefits will suffer.

That's the conclusion of a letter about the downside of privatizing toll operations from U.S. Rep. Albio Sires of New Jersey. We're just posting it in its entirety, as Teamsters represent toll collectors in New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Ohio. Writes Rep. Sires in the Jersey Journal:
I write regarding a proposal to privatize the New Jersey Turnpike toll operations. Two years ago, toll collectors, under the threat of privatization of their jobs, agreed to a union contract that substantially lowered both their wages and benefits, which has resulted in a 30 percent reduction of their standard of living. Full-time jobs that previously supported a family -- $50,000 and $60,000 a year -- became jobs that pay $35,000 and $40,000 a year. Part-time jobs paying $17 an hour were turned into jobs that pay only $12-$14 an hour. Stable middle-class jobs were essentially eliminated. 
Now, the same workers through Administrative action are threatened again by layoffs and privatization that could negatively impact nearly 800 jobs. Such action could be particularly devastating given the fact that New Jersey suffers one of America's highest unemployment rates. Toll operations on the New Jersey Turnpike have historically been a public function which has benefited the public good. Should the Turnpike Commission approve privatization, it will be done at the expense of workers that have already taken enormous cuts to pay and benefits. 
Tolls in New Jersey bring in more than $ I .6 billion in annual revenue for the state. Moreover, according to the most recent New Jersey Turnpike Authority (NJTA) annual report, the Turnpike Authority provides over $400 million in surplus to the NJTA General Reserve Fund and Transportation Trust Fund. If every Turnpike toll collectors' job was privatized and replaced by a private employee earning $12 an hour, the savings would only be between $5 and $6 million a year. Privatizing toll collectors' jobs is likely to cost far more than it saves. Moreover, it will devastate hundreds of New Jersey families during already difficult economic times. 
I have strong concerns regarding the proposal to privatize the New Jersey Turnpike toll operations. I would urge the Commission to strongly investigate the impact that such actions would have on the jobs of those workers on the New Jersey Turnpike and Garden State Parkway, and on the state in general.
Well said, congressman.