Wow. The mood was a bit tense this morning at The Civil Service Commission’s monthly meeting. Four state workers, members of the CWA union were arrested in the mayhem. But let me back up to give you some context.
Yesterday CWA notified its members that the obscure Commission was meeting today to change the rules governing civil service. Many municipalities participate in civil service and so does the state of NJ. The Commission amended the administrative code which gives the Governor emergency powers to enact “temporary layoffs” also known as furloughs. Under current rules the state can either lay workers off, or not. There was no furlough or temporary layoff until today.
Corzine has proposed two furlough days for state workers this Spring for a total savings of $35 million in this year’s budget. But today’s rule change also gives him the same authority through next year’s budget ( assuming he gets re-elected ).
Anyway, this didn’t go over so well with union members, 500 of whom showed up to protest. They called it “undemocratic” and a “sneak attack.” State troopers arrested four people who disrupted the meeting. Union leaders also said ( in addition to there not being ample notification of the meeting ) that there was not enough room inside to accomodate members who wanted to be heard.
At a press conference later in the day Corzine disputed that there hadn’t been adequate notification. He said all proper guidelines were followed.
But NJN’s exclusive video – seen on our website at http://www.njn.net shows footage of the arrests which included putting one man in a choke hold. Col. Rick Fuentes of the state police defended the troopers saying some of the disrupters during the meeting needed to be arrested.
It was all quite the scene. And very few reporters were aware of the meeting this morning, forcing them to play catch up this afternoon.
The fight over state worker furloughs definitely took an ugly turn today.