Nearly 100 union workers and their allies rallied outside the federal building in Newark this week to show their solidarity and strength in anticipation of a Supreme Court ruling on a case that seeks to hobble organized labor.
“No court case will weaken us,” said Wilfredo Larancuent, president of the SEIU NJ State Council, which represents 23,000 working people in the state. “We’re the backbone of this country. We will not be left behind.”
The Rise Up Day of Action was one of 300 events planned at worksites and public spaces around the country to show that working people are committed to their unions. The Supreme Court on Monday began hearing oral arguments in Janus vs. AFSCME, a case driven by anti-worker CEOs and billionaires to divide working people and limit our power in numbers.
At the rally in front of the Peter Rodino Federal Building, certified nursing assistant Cheryl Roberts recounted how her life was markedly changed for the better when she and her co-workers joined 1199SEIU Healthcare Workers East. “When we started our union, everything changed. We won good health insurance for ourselves and our families. We won job security and wage increases,” said Roberts, who works at a nursing home in Jersey City. “Workers stayed on the job for longer and we improved staffing levels for our patients.”
Dr. Rafael Coira, a member of the Committee of Interns and Residents, said his union negotiated better working hours for doctors, helping ensure patient safety. While MariCarmen Molina said her union, Workers United, helped secure stable shifts and paid time off for her and other warehouse workers at a distribution center in Central Jersey.
“A ruling in the Janus case that would weaken our ability to organize and bargain would be bad for us in the public sector and eventually bad for all workers,” said Kartherine Gilmore, a security guard in the Newark Public Schools and member of Local 617. “We won’t stand for it. We won’t let them divide us.” Daniel Medina, a maintenance worker at Newark Penn Station and a member of 32BJ SEIU, said the rally showed that “we mean business.”
Allies of the unions also attended the rally. “We’re not going to allow them to destroy us, to destroy the union,” said Analilia Mejia, executive director of New Jersey Working Families Alliance. Hashim Shomari, interim executive director of the state council, closed the rally by leading union members in a chant: “We’ll be back.”
The rally was sponsored by the SEIU NJ State Council. Participants include: 1199SEIU Heathcare Workers East, Workers United LDFS Joint Board, Locals 617 and 3, Committee of Interns and Residents (CIR), 32BJ SEIU