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Chris Christie Threatens Veterans Hiring Preference

Written by  Chriss Street

American Land Forces Institute is reporting that just before America honored our veterans on Memorial Day, the New Jersey State Civil Service Commission, whose members are appointed by Governor Chris Christie, proposed changes that might restrict New Jersey's long standing “absolute veteran’s preference” in hiring of state workers.  Given that statutory veterans’ preferences have been available in all 50 states since the First World War One; any reduction in the New Jersey “earned” preference would be a troubling precedent in a time when substantial numbers of veterans are returning from war.

 

Currently all states have veterans preferences in hiring and absolute preferences for disabled veterans.  Prominently located on their Civil Service website is a statement that New Jersey “values the contributions that our veterans have made, and continue to make, for our country's freedom and for other nations around the world.  As such, New Jersey's merit system provides absolute veterans preference in employee selection. This means that qualified veterans are placed at the top of an open competitive employment list ahead of non-veterans regardless of their scores.” 

On May 17, 2013, the New Jersey Civil Service Commission held a public hearing on “revisions” to hiring procedures for the State of New Jersey.  Currently, qualified veterans are placed at the top of an open competitive employment lists ahead of non-veterans.  Disabled veterans are also placed on promotional lists according to their scores, plus a certain number of points advantage.      Disabled veterans and veterans are placed on promotional lists according to their scores, but they have preference over non-veterans when they are at the top of a certification list for an appointing authority. 

The United States Office of Personnel Management administers entitlement to veterans' preferences in employment under Title 5, United States Code, and oversees other statutory employment requirements in Titles 5 and 38.  Currently all states provide veterans preferences in hiring and absolute preferences in hiring for disabled veterans.  Employees are hired and promoted based on examinations, but Civil Service preferences governing hiring and promotion have created millions of public service jobs for veterans across our nation. 

There appears to have been significant political pressure brought to bear in New Jersey to “eliminate” Civil Service preferences and adopt hiring outcomes to avoid discrimination against gays, women, and other minority groups.  Under the changes, some jobs would be grouped together as part of a “band;” allowing managers to move employees from one position to another without the need for exams.  The state says that will streamline promotions and save money.    

ALFI is concerned, since the majority of veterans historically have been male, the Civil Service changes would result in a dramatic impact on the hiring and promotion of military veterans.  Such changes would open the door to crony favoritism and political patronage.  The Communication Workers of America, New Jersey's largest public workers' union, are also cautioned that the new Civil Service rule changes may violate the New Jersey State Constitution.

Clearly, these monumental changes in New Jersey hiring procedures were not thoroughly vetted by veterans’ support groups.  The New Jersey Civil Service Commission held only one public hearing on the matter — and none of the commission's members were present.  

Due to lack of communications, less than a dozen individual veterans and no organized veterans support group attended the Civil Service Commission hearing.  Joseph Fornarotto, Commander of the Belleville-Nutley, New Jersey Disabled American Veterans warned after learning of the meeting: "With these rules, Gov. Christie is stabbing veterans in the back."  He added that veterans need help in landing jobs and not the lack of it.

Since ALFI started inquiring about this issue, Michael Drewniak, spokesman for Gov. Chris Christie’s office, said the idea that the proposal will eliminate or diminish veterans’ preference is “simply false.”  But members of Christie's own political party are now increasingly skeptical of the changes.  Former state Sen. Peter Inverso released a statement today calling for the Civil Service Commission to hold more hearings on the proposal.  “I think there is a possible win-win scenario because as a former civil service employee, I know the frustration of waiting for promotional exams to be performed, front line employees wait for a long bureaucratic test process which delays promotion and needed staff to supervisors who remain short-staffed," Cook said. “We just need to make sure the process protects veterans and is fair to all involved.”

We agree!