By Briana Vannozzi
From city hall to the State House, workers marched through the streets of Trenton putting a spotlight on labor issues.
“What workers are facing, including our members, is the need for work to pay and the need to have a path for the middle class,” said SEIU 32BJ President Hector Figueroa.
The president of New Jersey’s Service Employees International Union called for raising the minimum wage-which stands at $8.38 an hour in New Jersey and $7.25 an hour on the federal level.
“What we need to do is look for solutions. When you think about it cleaners, security officers, office cleaners, home care workers, even adjunct faculty are struggling in this economy so what we need really is to value work again,” said Figueroa.
“Every dollar that they earn they spend in the economy and they really keep the New Jersey economy going,” said Assemblyman Reed Gusciora.
Legislative leaders joined in the rally today pledging their support.
When asked what is the number one issue facing workers right now in the state, Gusciora said, “Is the economy and jobs, we want to move New Jersey forward. We’d like our governor to come home and help us do that, but we want to create an economic climate people can live and work and sustain in.”
“They know when labor uplifts their own they have a ripple effect across the country for other working families, so I think they’re looking out for not only their own interest but the interest of all working families,” said Assemblywoman Elizabeth Muoio.
SEIU is the largest property services union in the state. They have more than 10,000 members and today members from across the country are marching in solidarity.
“But when you have a family it’s like you’re working just to pay the bills. You don’t have enough to do the things you want to do. I wanna go on vacation,” said SEIU Food Services Worker Shirley Newell.
Newell says most of the people you see here today are working two to three jobs to keep above water and it’s not just about the wages.
“The company that we work for, they have a benefits package, but its not affordable to us. That’s the biggest problem,” she said.
Local and state representatives are on board.
“They need a livable wage, they need good health care, they need a fully funded pension. These are all things that labor for decades have fought for and we’ve all reaped the benefits of,” said Muoio.
“As a mayor I pledge my support because strong cohesive middle class and strong cohesive living wages make the differences in our communities,” said Trenton Mayor Eric Jackson.
New Jersey is one of the largest union states in the country and leaders here say they’ll continue the fight.