Download Insider NJ’s Labor publication here or view it below:
It’s called struggle for a reason, because no one ever thought the fight for a just wage would be easy. “We were very welcome to the workers,” IWW organizer Elizabeth Gurley Flynn said, in reference to the Wobblies’ 1913 forays into Paterson. “But we were set upon by the city authorities with vicious fury.”
“Vicious fury” doesn’t accurately convey the ongoing tensions between private sector versus public sector labor in New Jersey. But it may relate those deeper disaffections and agonies experienced by laborers not protected by unions, forced to work for an unlicensed temp agency, like Edilberto Caicedo, a forklift operator who died on the job in Kearny in 2019.
In the pages ahead you will find an essay on the political collisions of the Labor Movement in New Jersey over the course of the past few years, and what they mean for this campaign cycle as Governor Phil Murphy and Senate President Steve Sweeney pursue reelection.
You will find labor leaders and elected officials considering some of the most pressing issues impacting the workforce, including unemployment, labor expansion, the infrastructure bill before the U.S. House that would fund the Gateway Tunnel project, project labor agreements, minimum wage, diversity among labor groups, the deadly impact of Hurricane Ida, and, of course, the COVID pandemic.
You will also encounter our InsiderNJ Labor List recognizing the main players in the New Jersey Labor Movement, among them the leader of the guild helping Gannett reporters in their quest to unionize, some other new names based on their political impact in 2020, and those enduring labor leaders you’ve no doubt seen over the years.
That’s a fitting description for labor in New Jersey on Labor Day.
Whatever the movement’s altered aims, imperfections, impediments, cross purposes, or work undone, the roots here remain, going back to the Paterson silk strikers who marched under a banner that read:
“We Weave the Flag. We live under the Flag. We die under the Flag. But Dam’d if we’ll starve under the Flag.”