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Working Families today announced that Camden-based activist, organizer, and educator Sue Altman will take the role of New Jersey State Director.
“It’s outstanding that the New Jersey grassroots has one of its own leading one of the most effective progressive organizations in the state,” said Saily Avelenda, executive director of New Jersey 11th for Change. “Sue will be a galvanizing force as the activists who drove 2018’s blue wave expand the scope of their work from Congress and the White House to our own swamp here in Trenton.”
Since 2016, Altman has served on the leadership board of South Jersey Women for Progressive Change (SJWPC), an all-volunteer organization formed after the election of Donald Trump. They fought hard to oust Republican U.S. Rep. Tom MacArthur in Congressional District 3 and helped to replace him with Andy Kim, contributing to the grassroots-fueled wave that swept the state in the 2018 midterm elections.
“Sue Altman is born competitor and the perfect choice to take Working Families to the next level,” said Ray Greaves, Chairman of the ATU New Jersey State Council. “At a time when political bosses and CEOs have rigged the rules of our state to enrich and empower themselves, it’s never been more important to have Working Families fighting for a New Jersey that works for working people.”
Established in 2008, New Jersey Working Families has changed the Garden State in lasting ways over the last ten years. In 2014 it elected one of the most progressive mayors in America, Ras Baraka, defeating the machine-endorsed Shavar Jeffries despite being outspent 10-1. It was at the center of the effort to bring accountability and transparency to Trenton in the wake of the Bridgegate scandal, filing an ethics complaint against Christie-ally David Samson that helped force him from his position on as chairman of the NY/NJ Port Authority, and gathering tens of thousands of signatures calling for Christie’s resignation. Working Families has spearheaded successful campaigns to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour, ensure all New Jersey workers can earn paid sick time, and allow for automatic voter registration of qualified voters at state agencies.
“Working Families was central to our successful fight for $15 here in New Jersey, as well as electing progressive champion Ras Baraka in Newark,” said Kevin Brown, New Jersey Director of SEIU 32BJ. “This organization has already changed the state for the better in lasting ways, and we can’t wait to see where Sue leads it next.”
As a teacher, education policy was Sue’s first window into New Jersey politics. In 2007, Sue’s colleagues in public schools came under fire from then-governor Chris Christie, who was chastising teachers and cutting education funding while his own children attended prep school. A product of public education, Sue was alarmed by the inequities she saw: while New Jersey public schools were being forced to standardize and narrow curricula, children of the very wealthy in prep schools were enjoying a full array of arts, music, sports, and small class sizes.
“Sue has been a fierce and fearless advocate for good public schools in New Jersey,” said Marie Blistan, President of the New Jersey Education Association. “I’m confident that she will carry that same passion into her new role advocating for a more just and equitable economy in New Jersey, so that the students and families she has always fought for can look forward to a brighter future in our state.”
Questions of policy and equity were top of mind when she pursued a degree in International and Comparative Education at the University of Oxford, UK, where Sue continued to dig into questions of equity, gender and politics.
“Sue understands on a gut level how environmental injustice, racial injustice, economic injustice, and education injustice are all inextricably linked,” said Doug O’Malley, director of Environment New Jersey. “She’s well-suited to build a big-tent, multi-issue progressive coalition to shake up New Jersey. We’re thrilled to have her.”
Sue began blogging and organizing with advocates for public schools in New York and New Jersey. After moving to Camden, Sue fought against the unjust state takeover and privatization of Camden’s public schools, testified in Trenton and Camden against increases in standardized testing, helped organize and publicize protests at Legislative offices, wrote investigative pieces looking into charter school land deals, and joined advocates in Camden to bring attention to the takeover that was happening with the enthusiastic consent of a Democratic Legislature.
“A lot of very rich and powerful people are saying they want to help Camden, lining their own pockets while shutting down our schools and silencing our voices,” said Ronsha Dickerson, a Camden Parents Union and Journey for Justice National Organizer. “But Sue has been a fighter for our communities and schools since she moved here, and she understands that racial justice and equity is the way to sustain communities that are under attack. Camden and communities around New Jersey have an ally in Sue Altman, and now she has a big new pulpit. Watch out New Jersey.”
Sue joins New Jersey Working Families at a moment of transition for the national Working Families Party. Last year leading Movement for Black Lives strategist Maurice Mitchell took the helm of the WFP as national director. After leading the organization through a smashingly successful midterm that ousted corporate Democrats in legislative seats from New York to New Mexico, Maurice has pledged to deepen the WFP’s electoral organizing and base-building to fuse together a truly multiracial populist coalition of voters.
“Sue shares our mission to transform our transactional politics to one rooted in compassion, solidarity, and fierce urgency,” said Maurice Mitchell, Working Families Party National Director. “Her deep commitment to and talent for mobilizing people across the state is how we’ll build a multiracial, populist movement here in New Jersey that stretches from Camden County to Passaic.”
Sue has a history of speaking truth to power. In 2016 she memorably confronted Chris Christie about his education policies in a clip that quickly went viral; he threw a microphone at her. In March, she led a delegation of activists and advocates into the New Jersey Economic Development Authority Board Meeting and read aloud a letter from 56 organizations calling on the board members to resign over mismanagement of the state’s corporate welfare programs.
“It’s time to rebuild New Jersey’s democracy from the bottom up. To win the change we want to see, we must open up state politics to new voices,” said Altman. “I look forward to continuing the mission of the Working Families Party here in the Garden State, and building a New Jersey that works for the many, not the powerful and privileged few. ”
- Andy Kim
- Chris Christie
- David Samson
- Kevin Brown
- Marie Blistan
- Maurice Mitchell
- NJ 11th for Change
- Port Authority of New York and New Jersey
- Ras Baraka
- Ray Greaves
- Ronsha Dickerson
- Saily Avelenda
- Shavar Jeffries
- South Jersey Progressive Women For Change
- Sue Altman
- Tom MacArthur
- Working Families NJ
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