By David Madden

by KYW’s David Madden

ATLANTIC CITY, NJ (CBS) — More than 300 union members from throughout New Jersey held a march and rally to support municipal workers in Atlantic City who fear their contracts will be torn apart if Governor Chris Christie is successful in taking over most of the city’s operations.

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The rain forced this rally inside city council chambers, where the message came through loud and clear. Union contracts must be protected.

“We all understand the fight. They’re out to get us. Not just here in the state of New Jersey but across our country. They’re out to get us,” said Charles Hal, chairman of Working Families United for New Jersey. “But if you listen and you watch real closely, people are pushing back and they’re fighting back and they’re saying enough is enough.”

Local politicians expressed solidarity with the crowd. Among them, Atlantic County Freeholder Ernest Coursey.

“Let (Governor Chris) Christie know. Let (State Senate President Steve) Sweeney know. Let (Atlantic County State Senator Jim) Whelan know that we’re about the good work,” Coursey said. “We’re not coming down. We fought too hard to get where we are today. We’re not turning back.”

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As this fight makes its way through the halls of the state capitol in Trenton, rally organizers vow to turn up the heat here, because they insist this is a union town and while they’re ready to help the city out, their rights must remain protected.

As for the proposed takeover itself, little has changed. A plan being floated by Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto will be amended this week to ensure Atlantic City schools are included in payments made by eight casinos in lieu of taxes over a ten year period. But there’s no indication when Prieto might put his plan up for a full Assembly vote, given it’s unclear he has the 41 votes needed to pass it.

He refuses to post the Christie version of the takeover bill, which has already cleared the senate by a wide, bipartisan margin.

The Governor has made it clear he will not sign any takeover bill but his own, with no amendments. And those PILOT payments from the casinos, some $120 million a year, will not be approved without the companion takeover bill.

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