TRENTON, N.J. (CBSNewYork/AP) — The New Jersey Senate has passed a bill requiring sharply higher contributions for pensions and health benefits from public workers while suspending unions’ ability to bargain over health care.
The upper chamber moved the bill with support from Republicans and a few Democrats in a 24-15 vote.
The bill was amended earlier on Monday to remove a controversial provision to limit public workers’ access to out-of-state medical care.
The bill must still be passed in an Assembly committee and then by the full Assembly.
Earlier, New Jersey public workers marched across the Delaware River to New Jersey’s Statehouse in protest of the bill. Hundreds of Revolutionary War re-enactors and union members crossed a bridge over the river in a simulation of George Washington’s crossing to Trenton in 1776.
A group of union members marched holding a giant banner reading “The Second Battle of Trenton.” Many wore 18th century garb and some impersonated the nation’s Founding Fathers.
More than 125 tents were set up and a mock graveyard for collective bargaining rights was erected in another spot near the statehouse.
“This is the defining moment for the labor movement in our generation,” New Jersey AFL-CIO President Charles Wowkanech wrote in an email to enlist support for the rally, the latest and most ambitious of several recent Capitol protests. “Only through your presence in Trenton on Monday will we make the difference.”
Wowkanech was among 25 union members who were arrested after disrupting a Senate hearing on the bill Thursday. They were issued disorderly persons summonses and released.
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