NEWARK, NJ - As a coalition of labor union groups stood in blocks of yellow, orange and blue t-shirts on the steps of Newark City Hall on Friday, Councilman-At-Large Luis Quintana shared a slice of his family’s story.

“I have a mother who’s illiterate, couldn’t read or write,” said Quintana, whose family moved to Newark from Puerto Rico when he was 8 years old. 

“She organized the ladies garment union workers because she was sick and tired of not having benefits for her children because she didn’t know what welfare was,” he said. “She couldn’t read or write but labor was there for her.”

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Quintana was among a host of elected officials, joined by Gov. Phil Murphy and Lt. Gov. Sheila Oliver, who assembled alongside the Essex-West Hudson Labor Council celebrating its 28th annual labor parade before a march down Broad Street. 

“Most of us assembled here today come from families who were working people,” Oliver said. “They didn’t make a lot of money, they came to work everyday and they looked forward to the promise of economic prosperity and fairness.”

Oliver said the parade’s location was fitting, given the city’s long history of driving the formation of organized labor unions in New Jersey.

“Newark represented the economic engine and the center of organized labor in this state dating back over 100 years,” Oliver said. 

Assemblyman Thomas Giblin, who is also the president of the labor council praised Murphy’s open door policies and willingness to compromise with labor unions.

Murphy said he was determined to keep New Jersey “the quintessential organized labor state” that he said was chipped away during Republican Gov. Chris Christie’s tenure.

“We lost our way under the last administration,” Murphy said. “Let me just tell you, we have found our way in this administration and we will not lose it ever again.”