IFPTE's Featured Local - Local 195
One of IFPTE’s largest Locals and IFPTE's largest affiliate on the East Coast
Located in Milltown, New Jersey, Local 195 joined IFPTE on July 1, 1958 when the International was known as the American Federation of Technical Engineers (AFTE).
Local 195 got its start when three groups of Highway Department engineers from Newark, Trenton, and Atlantic City were threatened with layoffs. They knew that attaining union representation would avert these layoffs—and they were right. James Woodside, AFTE organizer and former Secretary-Treasurer, ushered the group of 40 to 50 engineers into the International, and working closely with Highway Commissioner Dwight R.G. Palmer, the group was able to stave off layoffs.
After the threat vanished, Local members became inactive and complacent. Their work-related issues were minimal in nature, so seeking additional rights were unimportant. Seeing this, Woodside and former Local president Robert Turner, sought to empower the members by growing their numbers while also bringing continuity to the Local. So they reorganized the engineers and added the Highway Inspectors to their fold.
Since early in its history, Local 195 has been an outspoken advocate for the right of public sector employees in New Jersey. The Local waged a multiyear battle successfully securing passage of state law on several fronts including collective bargaining rights, pension reform, equal pay and premium pay for overtime, voluntary dues check off, increased holidays, and grievance procedures.
Its biggest fight came in 1964 when the Local began its work on collective bargaining rights for public employees. Up until that time, public sector employees did not possess the right to bargain because of an amendment to New Jersey’s constitution passed in 1947. This basic workers’ right, addressed in Article 1, Paragraph 19 dealing with the collective negotiability between sectors stated: “Persons in private employment have the right to bargain collectively. Persons in public employment have the right to present grievances and proposals through representatives of their own choosing”.
This issue exploded in 1963 when Teamsters Local 723 representing Turnpike employees voted to strike. Management filed suit and received a favorable judgment from Judge John B. Wicks of the District Court. He held that ‘public employees didn’t have the right to strike because it was against the state’s constitution and the right to bargaining goes to the right to strike.’ The issue went to the Supreme Court and was overturned because it was ‘against common law’. Even though the court had rendered a favorable decision, no law existed giving collective bargaining rights to public employees.
Understanding the necessity of this basic right, Local 195 began an aggressive campaign to make collective bargaining rights the law. For several years, their efforts went unrewarded. In 1965, former Governor Hughes, up for reelection and seeking the support of labor, promised the Local that he would sign a measure into law granting collective bargaining rights to public employees when he assumed office. However, his promise and the Local’s victory were short lived. Once in office, Governor Hughes set up a commission to study collective bargaining instead of signing the measure into law. In militant fashion, the Local kept pressure on the Governor culminating in a ‘Highway Holiday’ in 1966 and a strike in 1967.The Highway Holiday, aptly named because a majority of Highway Department employees took the day off, was held on May 2, 1966 and saw 24 busloads of Highway employees descend on the capitol in Trenton to lobby their legislators on collective bargaining.
Governor Hughes continued his defiance in passing collective bargaining rights for public sector employees. Finally, in 1968, a Republican controlled Assembly passed the collective bargaining rights bill which was vetoed by Governor Hughes. However, to the Governor’s chagrin, the Assembly overrode his veto. Later that year, the Public Employees Relations Commission (PERC) passed major regulations leading to the formation and election of the Local’s bargaining units.
In its 53-year history, four individuals have served as president of the Local since its reorganization: Robert Turner (1961 to 1977), Dominick Critelli (1978 to 2006), Donald Buchanan (2007 to 2011) and Timothy Rudolph (2011 to present). As the mantel passed to each leader, so did the political astuteness and activism which the Local has become known for.
The year 1978 saw Local 195 with 1,800 members on its membership roles out of a possible unit of 8,200. Realizing the need to grow their numbers, Local 195 lobbied the Assembly for passage of an Agency Shop law. In 1980, Governor Byrne signed Agency Shop provisions into law which affected the existing public sector unions—Local 195, SEIU and AFSCME. Similar to federal law granting federal sector unions’ official time, this law allowed Local 195 and other public sector unions to assess fees to bargaining unit members who were not dues-payers to the Union. By the mid/late 80’s, Local 195 grew its numbers to 6,500 dues-payers and 1,500 agency fee payers seeing its greatest membership increase during these years.
In 1982, the Local once again found itself fighting the courts on contract negotiability issues. Although the decisions rendered by the NJ Supreme Court regarding subcontracting, work week provisions, and transfer and reassignment of employees were not totally in the Union’s favor, the Local won important concessions from the state.
Again in 2001, Local 195 engaged the Department of Corrections in battle over the issue of ‘No Work, No Pay’, an outmoded, common law rule established in 1859, prohibiting payments to individuals for services they did not perform. A supervisor at the DoC, who was not a part of the Local’s bargaining unit, was granted overtime on several occasions even though the work should have been given to the members. The Local grieved the matter and an arbitrator ruled in favor of the Local. DoC appealed and the court overturned the ruling in favor of management. Standing for the rights of its members, Local 195 appealed to the NJ Supreme Court where the matter was again overturned, this time in favor of Local 195. The Court’s decision set precedent for other cases and will more than likely reach far beyond New Jersey’s borders.
While Local 195’s ranks swelled to well over 8,000 members in the late 80’s, budget cuts, privatization of public sector jobs and an economic recession reduced its numbers--today the Local services approximately 6,500 members and agency fee payers.
In his capacity as Local president, Dominick Critelli also served as IFPTE’s Executive Vice President as well as one of two Vice Presidents representing IFPTE’s Atlantic Area.
On November 11, 2006, Local 195 and our entire Union suffered a great loss when Dominick passed away. On December 8, 2007, Rutgers Labor Education Center held a naming ceremony in honor of Dominick’s years of outstanding service and dedication to labor. Rutgers Labor Auditorium was dedicated and renamed The Dominick D. Critelli Auditorium at Rutgers Labor Education Center.
In November 2006, Vice President Donald J. Buchanan assumed the position of President of Local 195. Before being elected to a leadership position in the Local, Don worked for the Department of Transportation as an electrical mechanic. He also served on the Public Employee Relations Commission and many other committees throughout his years with the Local. On January 31, 2011, Don retired after 41 years of service and dedication to the labor movement.
Local 195’s Vice President, Timothy Rudolph, became president of the Local upon Don’s retirement. The Local’s legacy of political astuteness and activism has again been called to action as public employees and unions throughout New Jersey are in a battle to stop Governor Chris Christie’s campaign to minimize public sector workers and eliminate their unions.
As always, expect nothing less from IFPTE Local 195 than to continue to fight for its members, the labor movement and all working families of New Jersey.
About Local 195
With eight fulltime employees, Local 195 holds one of the highest percentages of membership in New Jersey’s public sector, at approximately 75%. The Local has 350 shop stewards and thirty-nine chapters in more than 400 locations statewide. The Local is a member of IFPTE’s Atlantic Area Council which is made up of 19 Locals; Tim Rudolph presides over the Council. Gerald Newsome, Local 195’s Vice President, is also one of two Atlantic Area Vice Presidents, and Sal Baglieri serves as the Local’s Trustee Chair.
Local 195 holds leadership seats on several state government and labor committees such as the Public Employee Relations Commission (PERC), Public Employee Occupational Safety and Health Administration Advisory Board (PEOSHA), and the Industrial Union Council (IUC). The Local also co-sponsors a weekly program on public radio hosted by their attorney called ‘The World of Work with Shep Cohen’. The one-hour program, whose call letters are WDVR, is devoted to work and work related issues.