Mainly due to the struggling economy, political leaders in California, New York, Michigan and New Jersey have been asking unions for concessions — wage freezes, benefit cuts and tougher work rules. New Jersey Governor Christie has had many confrontations with teachers and union members.
But art teacher Marie Corfield's battle with Christie at a town hall meeting in September over the state's education cuts became a YouTube classic.
According to businessinsider.com, the teacher accuses Christie of gutting the New Jersey education system, and Christie responds with a point-by-point explanation of how unaffordable New Jersey schools had become, and how modest the cuts he proposed were.
The New York Times reports that ever since their confrontation video went big, Corfield has received a stream of abusive e-mails and Facebook postings. "People I don't even know are calling me horrible names," said Ms. Corfield. She said the problem has always been with the unions, according to Christie.
Nearly 20 percent of the work force in New Jersey is unionized (compared with less than 14 percent nationally).
Recent studies found that public salaries, even with benefits included, are equivalent to or lag slightly behind those of private sector workers. The Manhattan Institute studied New Jersey and concluded that teachers earned wages roughly comparable to people in the private sector with a similar education.
From Illinois to New Jersey, politicians have refused to pay into pension funds, creating deeper and deeper shortfalls.
In their September exchange, Christie at first scolded Corfield, an art teacher, for giggling while he started to answer her question and then said his fight is not with the teachers but with union leaders.
According to NorthJersey.com, Corfield, who was angry with Christie's cuts in education aid and war of words with the New Jersey Education Association, took the microphone to confront the governor.
"New Jersey has some of the best schools in the country, and this administration has done nothing but lambaste us and tell us what horrible schools we have," said Marie Corfield, an art teacher at Robert Hunter Elementary School in Flemington.
"My lambasting and my rhetoric is directed very clearly at one group of people," Christie said, adding that districts could have averted many layoffs if local unions agreed to pay freezes.
"We are not drug mules. And that came from you. And now I'm going back to work," said Corfield, before walking out.
The video of Corfield and Christie is available here.