NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ—The City Council is attempting to back off of a promise to adopt an ordinance strengthening protections for workers, according to the agenda for tonight’s meeting.
An email alert from New Labor, the organization leading the campaign, said, “After repeatedly expressing their willingness to pass an ordinance, the New Brunswick City Council has suddenly switched to talk of a resolution, rather than an ordinance.”
“Such a resolution would only give a green light to employers who fail to pay their workers according to the law and who currently face almost no consequences,” the alert reads.
Originally, the Council had said they expected to introduce the “anti-wage-theft” ordinance at their November 6 meeting, but it was pulled at the last minute.
At that meeting, New Labor member Olga Flores inquired about the progress of the promised ordinance against wage theft.
Council President Rebecca Escobar, who also serves as the Director of Youth Serves in the Puerto Rican Action Board, responded, “We didn’t put the ordinance because we found out there are some statutes that [city attorney Bill] Hamilton has to look at to see that we are proposing the right issues so we don’t have to go back and change it.”
Council President Escobar continued, “We are working on it, and it’s not that easy… Probably at the next meeting we’ll have it, present it, and have a discussion on it.”
Although Escobar’s reasons are sensibly cautious, no further information has been provided to the public about the specific statuettes that are being scrutinized and why it is taking more time than usual to make these corrections, especially when there seems to be no disagreement over the issue of wage theft in general.
Flores, a victim of wage-theft thanked the council for their support. She is also one of the many members of New Labor who have approached the city council over the last couple of months, to show their support for the ordinance and urge the council to take immediate action.
But the agenda for tonight’s meeting once again does not include an ordinance, much to the dismay of New Labor, and other supporters of the proposed law.
The agenda instead includes an “item” for discussion: “Possible anti wage theft ordinance/resolution.”
The situation is reminiscent of the struggle over an ordinance outlawing fracking in the city. That law was eventually passed by the council, after activists forced an up or down vote by submitting a petition calling for a public ballot question.
At first, the city tried to dismiss the anti-fracking activists’ calls for an enforceable ban via a city ordinance, and instead proposed a ceremonial resolution that would do nothing.
New Labor is organizing a large turnout for tonight’s meeting to pressure the council into keeping their word.
Charlie is the founder and editor of New Brunswick Today, and the winner of the Awbrey Award for Community-Oriented Local Journalism. He is a proud Rutgers University journalism graduate, a community organizer, and a former independent candidate for mayor of New Brunswick.