New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) again distinguished himself from other Republican governors looking to limit public workers’ collective bargaining rights, saying he “loves” the process.
Christie has long targeted public employee unions, such as teacher’s unions, for many of the problems his state is facing. But he said at a Hillsborough, N.J. town hall meeting on Wednesday that he is enthusiastic about negotiating with the unions to work out their differences.
“In fact, I love collective bargaining,” Christie told the audience, according to the Associated Press. “I’ve said let’s get rid of civil service and let everything be collectively bargained, as long as collective bargaining is fair, tough, adversarial and there’s someone in that room representing you.”
That stance puts Christie at odds with Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R), who is looking to push anti-union legislation through the state senate, and Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R), who saw his state senate pass a similar bill Wednesday.
Christie has become a well-known national political figure and conservative darling in part for his tough talk against established interests within his state, including public unions.
But on this issue, Christie has stood apart from other conservatives. Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.), who is a Tea Party favorite, said Wednesday that collective bargaining has no place in representative government, adding that public employee unions have an “insidious relationship” with Democrats.
Christie said that despite his support for collective bargaining, he wants to get after the unions, which he said were too close with former Gov. Jon Corzine (D).
“Let me at them. Get me out of the cage and let me go,” he said.