WESTWOOD, NJ – Incumbent Westwood Council members Rob Bicocchi and Beth Dell today announced that they will not be completing a political endorsement survey presented last week by the Westwood Education Association/New Jersey Education Association in their re-election campaign for Borough Council. The Westwood Education Association/New Jersey Education Association is the collective bargaining unit representing Westwood Regional School District’s employees – not the students, parents or residents of Westwood.
“The fact is that this labor union has never before been interested in a Westwood Council race until one of their local union Presidents chose to run for the office and teamed up with another union official,” Bicocchi said. “Westwood’s Council and Mayor have no jurisdiction per se over our local schools or teacher contracts. So why would the union offer an endorsement? It’s clear this is a politically driven survey designed solely to help elect borough council members sympathetic with their special interests.”
Bicocchi was referring to his democratic opponents: Scardino, an NJEA member and head of the teachers’ union in the Lyndhurst School District, and Constantine who is a union official with AFSCME in New York City.
“As parents, we greatly respect and will always support our Westwood Regional School District teachers and the work they do to provide a quality education to all our children. But the questions in this survey have nothing to do with that respect and support; it is only about collective bargaining,” Dell said. “As Borough Council members, our job is to represent all the people of Westwood – not a special interest group – whose members consist primarily of non-Westwood residents.”
This is not the first special interest group that the Scardino-Constantine team has aligned itself with in this election. Earlier this year, labor unions from outside Westwood held a “Labor Standing With Labor Breakfast” fundraising reception whose sole purpose was “introducing” Scardino and Constantine. Sponsors asked for donations of $1,500.00. This event was held outside of Westwood.
“Westwood residents and taxpayers do not have a union representing their diverse borough-wide interests, they only have us as their elected officials. As Council members, we are called upon to represent the borough’s taxpayers in labor contract negotiations,” Bicocchi explained. “While these negotiations don’t have to be contentious, they must always be fair. Putting union leaders and union-endorsed and financed candidates on both sides of the negotiating table ruins that balance. It calls into question who our elected leaders are really working for.”
“We elected officials are obliged to always put Westwood residents and taxpayers first. So while we will always support our local teachers, and are grateful for the individual support many have expressed for our re-election; we must respectfully decline consideration for their union’s collective endorsement.” Dell stated. “The people of Westwood must never have to question who their Council members are truly representing.”
For these reasons we believe our opponents should abstain from seeking this endorsement as well.