CWA Local 1085 members in Salem County, NJ are declaring victory after county officials announced they will no longer consider proposals to privatize the county’s dispatching services and jail nursing jobs. By building a robust grassroots campaign alongside first-responders and community supporters, Local 1085 was able to successfully defeat the proposal that would have affected 35 emergency call center operators and 15 county jail nurses.
County officials began considering privatization in early April in a half-baked attempt to close a hole in the county’s budget. When residents learned what the Freeholders were considering, workers whose jobs were threatened, local police, fire and EMT forces, and their supporters mobilized.
For three months, CWA members—clad in red—and their supporters packed Freeholder meetings in opposition to the privatization scheme. A sea of red was present at every meeting. Many testified on the impact privatization would have on their families and the community. The Salem County Fraternal Order of Police and PBA unions, whose officers work day in and day out with dispatchers also decried the potential privatization as a threat to public safety. CWA members flooded the Freeholders’ phone lines with calls and inboxes with emails. Across the county, residents circulated petitions to the Freeholder Board, wrote letters to the editor to local newspapers and displayed blue and white yard signs that read, “Say No To Outsourcing, Keep Nurses/9-1-1 Jobs In Salem County” on county roadways and front yards. Workers and supporters even took their efforts to social media to mobilize other residents in opposition to privatization. Over 4,000 supporters joined the “Supporting Salem County 911 Dispatchers” Facebook group in just one month.
The mobilization efforts proved effectual when officials unexpectedly tabled the budget that contained the cuts to the dispatchers and nurses that necessitated the privatization at two consecutive meetings. On June 15, at the final budget meeting, Freeholders permanently took the privatization of services off the table, voting 5-2 on a budget that maintained these middle-class jobs and public safety for the county.
Local 1085 is thankful for the tremendous community support these past few months. Workers + Community = Win!