CWA Local 1080 Rallies for Better Wages, Benefits & Working Conditions

CWAers circle the sidewalk outside of Union County Division of Social Services in Elizabeth

On March 16, members of CWA Local 1080 rallied outside Union County Division of Social Services offices to voice their demands for a fair contract that improves the standard of living and working conditions for hundreds of social services workers in Union County, New Jersey.

Over 75 workers protested in afternoon rallies that were held outside the Plainfield and Elizabeth offices of the Division of Social Services. For six months, CWA Local 1080 has been in contract negotiations with Union County for a new contract. However, Union County officials have been slow to respond to the union’s proposals. The union’s bargaining committee is seeking fair wage increases, coverage for workers under the state’s temporary disability insurance, paid family leave, and clean water in their offices for over 350 social services workers.

“These workers help the community’s most vulnerable, often dealing with sky-rocketing caseloads. Their job is emotional and it’s difficult,” said CWA Local 1080 President Martha Iluonokhalumbe. Social Services workers have worked under enormously challenging circumstances in recent years. They are tasked with providing public assistance to hundreds of clients that are in need each day and often times work beyond their breaks and normal work schedules to keep up with the volume of clients. In addition, workers have dealt with increasing pension and health benefits costs due to the sweeping attacks on public workers signed into law in 2011.

Current working conditions at Union County had led to CWA requesting that water be tested in all three office locations in November. The County tested water at the Elizabeth office and discovered lead. The County promised to test the other two work locations-— one in Plainfield and a second office in Elizabeth— but CWA has yet to receive any results.

At a time when New Jersey legislature is considering expanding paid family leave benefits throughout the state, Union County workers do not have access to paid family leave. Workers have to deal with the tough financial choice between taking care of a sick family member or a newborn child, or their jobs. Moreover, workers do not receive disability insurance from the state, thus paying more for a very limited benefit in the event of illness or injury.

It is time for Union County officials to get serious about negotiating a contract that improves standards for workers and improves services for the people these workers serve. Workers at Union County Division of Social Services deserve a fair contract and will keep fighting until they win.