This month we kicked off WEC’s demand for Public Banking for New Jersey in a webinar that centered the voices of organizers, activists, workers and experts. We heard from Trina Scordo, executive director at New Jersey Communities United, Beverly Brown Ruggia, Financial Justice organizer at New Jersey Communities United, and Julie Plotkin, Associate Director of Education and Evaluation Research at the New Jersey Education Association (NJEA) on why a democratically operated, publicly owned bank committed to investing in the public good is critical for their members’ success. We also heard directly from workers on the ground, including: Nikki Baker, an educational professional in the Paterson public school district, who spoke to unacceptable conditions in the district’s school buildings, and the need for serious capital investment to fix these issues, including severe mold problems, and HVAC and air circulation which makes the building particularly dangerous during the COVID pandemic. Ivan Wei, who spoke to his family's struggles as small business owners of color in New Jersey, including consistent neglect or exploitation from big banks, making it near impossible to open an account or gain access to a non-predatory line of credit. Ivan highlighted that community banks and credit unions, the kind a [...]
This past week, WEC placed an op-ed outlining how a state-chartered public bank can help us achieve safe, secure jobs and a healthy sustainable environment for New Jersey. "If the past three months have proven anything in New Jersey, it’s that we need money. Not “we,” meaning our millionaires and billionaires and Wall-Street backed corporations. “We,” meaning workers. “We,” meaning communities of color. “We” means the poor, the working class and the near-mythical middle class. “We” means the people hit hardest by the health and economic devastation brought by COVID-19. “We” have big problems, and you can’t fix big problems without money. We need the state to invest money into accomplishing good things for the public. To do that most effectively, we need a state-chartered public bank in New Jersey, and we need it fast because it can provide the resources we need quickly and efficiently, and it can stop Wall Street from getting its grubby little mitts on the profits." Read the full piece here!
Jersey Renews, a diverse coalition working toward state-based policy solutions to address climate change, has laid out 10 core principles that must be the foundation for any just, green economic recovery. The report, A Roadmap Toward a Just, Green Recovery, was released and distributed to the co-chairs of Governor Murphy’s Restart and Recovery Advisory Council, which has been tasked with drafting recommendations on what a long-term economic recovery will look like for the state. Twenty five faith, environmental, labor and social justice organizations have endorsed the recommendations, which were crafted based on input from more than twenty partners. The report emphasized that to achieve a just and green recovery, NJ decision-makers must adhere to the following 10 principles: 1) Expand Resources for Public Health 2) Protect Workers and Our Environment 3) Fully Fund and Electrify Our Transit System 4) Build Up Renewables 5) Buy American 6) Develop a Green Workforce 7) Renew Green and Efficient Buildings 8) Restore Healthy Homes 9) Repair Our Infrastructure 10) Invest Money in the Public Good Read the press release here.
COVID-19 is our World War II – to fight it, we need to reconnect to our sense of social responsibility.
Coronavirus is an existential threat that could inspire individuals, businesses, and governments to act like they haven’t since World War II. In 1943, Eleanor Roosevelt planted a “Victory Garden” on the White House’s lawn, with the intention of encouraging Americans to grow their own vegetables, to reduce food and labor shortages as a result of World War II. By the end of World War II, some 40% of all vegetables consumed in the United States were grown in Victory Gardens. One poster read: “PLANT A VICTORY GARDEN. OUR FOOD IS FIGHTING.” Social responsibility is in our veins. Our concept of connectedness after World War II, while notably racist and exclusionary (something that should always be addressed and considered when forming new policies), allowed us to build some of the most effective social infrastructure the world had ever seen in the 20th century. The financialization of our economy and our political lives in the 1980s tricked us. After the Civil Rights movement won many of its battles to include everyone in that incredible social infrastructure, we were suddenly told it doesn’t matter. That every individual is an island. That government was the problem, and that there was no such thing as “society.” [...]
WEC in the News! Press Release from Andy Kim’s Office: Congressman Kim Votes to Protect Health Care and Social Service Workers from Workplace Violence
WASHINGTON, DC – Today, Congressman Andy Kim (NJ-03) voted to pass bipartisan legislation that would protect health care and social service workers from workplace violence, which has increased by 69 percent over the past decade according to the Bureau for Labor Statistics. “Our health care and social service workers do amazing work every day, but too often at great risk,” said Congressman Kim. “Every worker deserves a safe workplace, and this bipartisan bill will take a big step in ensuring that the professionals taking care of people in Burlington and Ocean Counties are taken care of themselves.” The Workplace Violence for Health Care and Social Service Workers Act, H.R. 1309, would provide protection for workers by requiring that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issue an enforceable federal standard that would require employers to develop workplace violence prevention programs that would save lives. "As a union of healthcare and social service professionals, we applaud Congressional leaders for moving forward legislation to create enforceable standards to finally make workplace safety a priority,” said Debbie White, RN and President of the Health Professionals and Allied Employees, AFT/AFL-CIO. “No longer can we accept that violence is “just part of the job.” Workplace violence is [...]
This week, Governor Murphy signed an executive order to create an “implementation board” with the intention of establishing a public bank in New Jersey. This is an incredible, bold step for the state to take towards economic justice. Currently, in New Jersey, our tax dollars are kept in private banks. The same private banks responsible for the financial strip mining that has torn our economy apart. These banks then invest our tax dollars in big-money endeavors across the world, rather than New Jersey’s communities. And, of course, they’re always sure skim lots of juicy debt servicing fees off the top. A public bank would give control of our tax dollars back to us. Instead of investing our money wherever the ultra-rich feel they’d like to, our state can invest in affordable college loans, public infrastructure and schools, housing, and non-predatory loans for small businesses. Congratulations to the New Jersey Education Association and Citizen Action for the work they have put in to make this victory happen. The Work Environment Council is proud to have trained more than 2,000 activists and union rank-and-file members on how Wall Street has strip mined our economy, and on the importance of establishing a public bank [...]
Seven years after Sandy, are we better prepared for a chemical spill, fire or explosion if a superstorm hits? TRENTON, NJ—Labor, environmental and community organizations are urging state leaders to plan for toxic chemical spills and other emergencies associated with natural disasters to mark the seventh anniversary of Superstorm Sandy. The worst natural disaster in New Jersey history, Hurricane Sandy wreaked havoc for millions and devastated record numbers of homes, businesses and schools. Researchers are still evaluating long-term contaminant threats as they examine how Sandy’s deadly conditions spread oil, hazardous materials, and debris across Mid-Atlantic waterways resulting in compromised infrastructure, beach erosion and sediment disturbance on the coasts of New Jersey and New York. Local groups caution if another superstorm like Sandy hits, over 5,000 facilities comprising New Jersey’s multi-billion dollar chemical industry pose a unique threat to the state, which is America’s most densely populated. Home to two major oil refineries, New Jersey is also a hub for U.S. petroleum distribution. Thousands of trains carrying millions of gallons of extremely flammable crude oil pass through NJ communities each week traveling 11 counties crossing bridges that, in some cases, are more than 100 years old. According to the New Jersey Work [...]
WEC Divests from Wall Street In 1981, the Reagan administration enacted a slew of financial deregulations and tax reforms which made private equity and hedge fund activity significantly more profitable. This included cutting the tax on capital gains, and legalizing stock buybacks – a practice previously considered illegal stock manipulation. In 1982, U.S. Secretary Treasurer William Simon, with two partners, borrowed $79 million, mostly from large banks, to purchase Gibson Greetings, one of the largest greeting card companies in the U.S. The purchase saddled Gibson Greeting with millions of dollars of debt, debt which fell on the company itself. To pay it off, workers’ wages, pensions, and benefits were slashed. Sixteen months later, they sold Gibson Greeting, resulting in massive profits for themselves and the bankers and investors involved. This began a trend in a deregulated financial sector: big banks irresponsibly lend money to greedy private equity firms and hedge funds, who make billions off debt financing by piling it onto workers. The reckless activities of big banks and Wall Street is largely responsible for stagnant wages for workers. It has led to the erosion of tax bases and public services in the United States. The New Jersey Work Environment [...]
Public education is under attack, including at higher education institutions; at Rutgers University, tuition is increasing, our professors and campus workers are paid less, and top administrators seem to be the only ones benefiting. Join the New Jersey Work Environment Council, Rutgers United Students Against Sweatshops, and other partners on December 16, 2017 to engage in a discussion on economics, financialization, and how financial institutions rob Rutgers University of vital resources - resources which could be better used to maintain/reduce tuition, invest in educational resources, and increase wages and pay for campus workers and faculty. This event is free, but please register to attend. Register Now Public Need Over Corporate Greed
Working people can't seem to get ahead. As we watch the news, organize and engage around issues in our communities, it becomes more apparent that we are operating in a rigged economy, which works for a privileged few. Unfortunately, Wall Street's power and influence thwarts progress on our most basic needs, on issues like public health, environmental protection, workers' rights, and civil rights. Join Health Professionals and Allied Employees (HPAE), Public Need over Corporate Greed, and the NJ Work Environment Council to learn about the horrific reality of runaway inequality and how it’s gotten so bad. Engage in a discussion on state based policies that can help us fight back against Wall Street’s influence on our politics and create an economy that values people over profit! Parking will be available at venue. Lunch will be served. Two sessions are being offered, free to attend, but please register! Wednesday, November 15 10am-4pm Labor Education Center 50 Labor Center Way New Brunswick, NJ 08901 Register Saturday, November 18 10am-4pm Labor Education Center 50 Labor Center Way New Brunswick, NJ 08901 Register Download a Flyer