Since Labor Day of last year, there have been worker protests resulting in historic strike activity in our state and nation. The last 12 months stand out as the largest display of workers fighting exploitation since I was elected as president of the New Jersey State AFL-CIO in 1997. In fact, there have been more than 200 strikes so far in 2023 in the United States, 10 times more than there were two years ago.71% approval, according to the most recent Gallup Poll +) and the public seems more and more supportive of unions helping workers to secure their slice of the American dream through collective action.Public approval of unions has hit its highest level since 1965 (
Workers authorizing a strike isn’t an easy financial decision to make, and it typically only happens when employers exhibit egregious behavior toward their workers.
Imagine for a moment being a railroad worker for some of the most profitable companies in America — such as Conrail, Norfolk Southern, or CSX during the peak COVID outbreak and you don’t have a single paid sick day. Imagine being a nurse and your hospital, Robert Wood Johnson in New Brunswick, is so severely understaffed that your health and the delivery of health care to your patients suffer.
Imagine our largest state public university – Rutgers — paying poverty-level wages and offering no health care to certain employees, while spending an endless amount of student tuition and tax dollars on the bottomless pit of college athletics, resulting in at least $225 million in debt over 10 years just for athletics. Well, these examples all occurred here in New Jersey recently, and workers are fed up with the greed and lack of fairness as these examples and those below illustrate.
The Writers Guild of America (WGA) and SAG-AFTRA, which represent actors and entertainment production professionals, are on strike. This industry is hugely profitable, yet they refuse to fairly compensate their workers. When Fortune 500 companies like Warner Bros., Netflix, Disney and Amazon Studios make decisions solely to further Wall Street profits, then workers must respond by withholding their labor until a fair contract is achieved.
For the first time in Rutgers’ over 250-year history, a strike by academic workers occurred. 9,000 workers were on the picket line for four days and finally secured a fair contract nearly a year after the previous one expired. Prior to the strike, part-time lecturers — who teach over 30% of undergraduate classes — weren’t making anywhere close to a living wage.
Unfortunately, Rutgers has continued its anti-labor behavior after the strike. They routinely violate the new contracts on Rutgers campuses and continue to union bust nurses at an alarming rate through back-door subcontracting, stripping away the union membership for hundreds of nurses and other positions at Rutgers-RWJ Barnabas Health.any packaging company in America — with profits increasing 12.7% last year. It has more than 300 production facilities worldwide and employs about 58,000 people. Yet it refuses to provide an affordable health care plan to its employees at the South Brunswick location. The United Auto Workers have been on strike there for three months and without a contract since December.West Rock was recently “honored” by Fortune Magazine as having the largest revenue and profit increase of
On the issue of striking workers, we thank the legislators in Trenton, especially Assemblyman Anthony Verrelli (D-Mercer) and Senator Paul Sarlo (D-Bergen) and Gov. Phil Murphy for advocating for workers on strike. They passed legislation to grant unemployment benefits to workers on strike and New Jersey is one of only a small number of states that have this benefit. It is a lifeline assisting workers who aren’t getting a paycheck because they are on the picket line fighting workplace economic injustice.U.S. Treasury Department released a study illustrating that unions raise wages and benefits for non-union workers. “Unionization has spillover effects that extend well beyond union workers,” the report stated. “Heightened workplace safety norms can pull up whole industries. Union members improve their communities through heightened civic engagement; they are more likely to vote, donate to charity, and participate in community projects.” *This month, the
This Labor Day, enjoy that beer, go to the shore, and host the family barbecue. But also take a moment to reflect on the sacrifice that teachers, nurses, mass transit operators, entertainment professionals and so many other union members made by going on strike. By doing so, their struggle not only yields benefits for themselves but helps to raise the living standards for all working people, union and non-union alike.nj.comThis piece was published in the Star- Ledger and on