More than 100 representatives of Working Families United for New Jersey, Inc. – a 256-member grassroots organization – came together with state and national community, labor, and political leaders tonight at Newark Symphony Hall to renew the call for lifting up New Jersey’s working families through community partnerships and collective activism.
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At its first-ever awards event and fundraising gala, the WFUNJ coalition recognized its historic victory last November in leading the statewide campaign for a higher minimum wage. That campaign integrated labor unions, faith-based organizations, community, civil rights, student, women, and retirees groups into a single effort that saw more than 60 percent of voters endorse raising the wage. Last year WFUNJ also successfully defeated an effort by Walmart to locate in Newark, leading instead to a new union-built and union-staffed ShopRite supermarket.
Now, WFUNJ is preparing to focus its grassroots educational and activism programs around issues of a statewide earned sick leave law, ensuring proper funding for New Jersey’s transportation network, protecting public education, promoting higher education affordability, and civic engagement for New Americans, among others. In addition, it will continue its strong voter registration and mobilization efforts.
“While tonight is a night of celebration, we are already putting the wheels in motion for even more successes in the future,” said WFUNJ Executive Director Edward Correa. “When we reach down to the grassroots, and bring entire communities together, nothing will be impossible to accomplish.”
“By coming together, we are provided with a valuable opportunity to talk about our shared values and how we can work together to advance a unified progressive agenda that will empower families and communities in New Jersey,” said Laurel Brennan, New Jersey State AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer and WFUNJ Trustee.
At the event, WFUNJ honored Senate President Steve Sweeney, AFT National President Randi Weingarten, and WFUNJ Chairman Charles Hall, Jr. for their efforts during last year’s campaigns, and their continued support and advocacy for commonsense economic and social policies on issues important to working families and communities.
“This honor isn’t for me, but for every single one of the 256 partners of the Working Families United for New Jersey, Inc. coalition,” said Hall. “It was our joint effort that enabled us to make history through the ‘Raise the Wage’ campaign, and those same efforts will allow us to continue pushing the priorities of our working families and communities – jobs, public education, and economic security – back to the forefront of the public discussion.”
Congressman Frank Pallone, a leading progressive and dean of New Jersey’s Congressional delegation, also praised WFUNJ for its work to empower communities through statewide voter registration and education. The congressman said his comments also would be submitted into the Congressional Record.
The Essex/West Hudson Central Labor Council combined the gala with a meet-and-greet event for Newark-area community organizations and WFUNJ leaders.
“The strength of community-labor partnerships will translate directly into greater grassroots power and subsequently more policies that will lift up New Jersey’s working families,” said Thomas Giblin, president of the Essex/West Hudson CLC.
WFUNJ is a non-partisan 501(c)(4) statewide grassroots coalition, comprised of 256 progressive, labor, religious, community, civil rights, student, women, and retirees groups, working together to build grassroots power and to educate and mobilize around the common issues that affect our state’s families.
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