ELIZABETH, NJ – Communications Workers of America members rallied in front of offices on Westminster Avenue yesterday, March 13, to voice their demands for a wage increase and better working conditions.
The Communications Workers of America (AFL-CIO) represents both private sector and public workers in the telecommunications, airlines, healthcare and direct care industries.
“I think we work in a place where we are not considered essential staff, and we should be because we are here for the people,” said one union member who asked not to be identified. “We serve the homeless and the needy.”
The group is seeking a wage increase, state disability insurance, and clean water in their offices.
In a released statement, CWA Local 1080 has been negotiating with Union County for the last six month. In addition, CWA requested that water be tested in all three office locations. Lead was found at the Elizabeth office, and the County promised to test the other two work locations - one in Elizabeth and one in Plainfield – but CWA has yet to receive any results.
According to CWA, the union is also waiting to hear back about disability insurance – since these workers do not receive state disability, and they pay more for a very limited benefit. Moreover, Union County workers do not have access to paid family leave. CWA is also demanding Union County grant workers coverage under the state’s Temporary Disability Insurance (TDI) or the equivalent.
Explained CWA New Jersey Staff representative Julia Barocas, “We are seeking state temporary disability insurance or its equal. The cost is very cheap, and the benefits are much better. We are not asking for too much, but we are asking for a wage increase. Our healthcare and pension costs have been going up. These are some of the hardest jobs in Union County. We work with the most needy. We don’t see it getting any easier. The County has been slow to give us an answer.”
Added Local 1080 representative Martha Iluonokhalumhe, “My members work very hard. They work with the most needy. Their caseloads have increased over the years and we have had very lean contracts over the years.”
A Union County spokesman Sebastian D’Elia declared, “We are in negotiations and will continue to negotiate.”