It was time to energize, engage and educate as union members who are part of the SEIU New Jersey State Council came to Trenton recently to make common cause and advance a legislative and policy agenda to benefit workers.
“Solidarity to us is not just a word in the dictionary. We’re here to promote, enhance and develop the issues we care about,” Council President Wilfredo Larancuent told the group of about 50 assembled for a legislative breakfast held at the Historic Trenton Masonic Temple, across the street from the Statehouse.
Those issues include passage of a bills in New Jersey that would provide minimum levels of staffing at nursing homes and a $15 minimum wage. The event drew state officials including Assemblyman Vin Gopal, D-Monmouth, and Julie Diaz, chief of staff for Labor Commissioner Rob Asaro-Angelo.
The council’s largest affiliate union, 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East, has been lobbying for the safe staffing legislation for months, with members regularly testifying before committees as the bill wends its way through the legislature. “We need enough staff to take care of our patients properly,” said Sherry McGhie, a certified nursing assistant at the Wanaque Center for Nursing and Rehabilitation in Passaic County.
Larancuent celebrated the diversity of membership in the council, which also includes resident physicians represented by the Committee on Interns and Residents, municipal and school workers in Newark, warehouse and distribution workers and state motor vehicle inspectors.
“In this room we have doctors and distribution workers but we all have common goals,” said Larancuent, who also is secretary-treasurer of the Laundry, Delivery, Food Service Joint Board, Workers United.