Charlie’s Labor Day Speech

On Labor Day 2018, Charlie Kratovil made a special speech celebrating the successful defeat of the proposed privatization of New Brunswick’s 9-1-1 dispatchers, and announced his plans to raise the wages of municipal employees, including our crossing guards, over the next three years.

Here’s the full text of Charlie’s remarks:

Thank you, New Brunswick. Welcome everyone. Thank you for coming out. I want to start out by wishing you all a very happy Labor Day! We’re here on this special day to celebrate the working people whose contributions make our city, our country, and our society so great. I really want to–for all of you–to thank you for taking time out of your day to be here on this holiday. Of course, today also marks the unofficial beginning of the traditional campaign season, and I’m pleased to report we’ve already scored a number of victories as we continue building the movement for change here in New Brunswick, and now that things are picking up, we’ll be doing a lot more events like this one.

So today we should also take some time to reflect on the contributions that working people make to our society day in and day out, and to acknowledge the many milestones of progress that the labor movement has achieved here, progress that we all benefit from.

Now, we’re here in front of the Rutgers University Public Safety Building to celebrate the first success of this campaign. When I declared my candidacy for Mayor almost three months ago, you may remember that I was opposed to the city government’s proposal to privatize our 9-1-1 dispatch service. I explained to the City Council that this move would have a long-term detrimental impact on public safety. I reiterated my suggestion to them that they should consider working with Rutgers to keep this important public service in the public sector and keep it based in our city. And I lobbied our Police Director to do exactly that. Well, the city ultimately took my advice. The dispatchers became Rutgers employees, and as of last week, the City of New Brunswick’s 9-1-1 calls are now being fielded at the state-of-the-art facility right behind me. So, that’s our first victory to be proud of.

The eight dispatchers who wanted to keep their positions have transitioned to Rutgers employment without missing a single day of work or losing their benefits. By all accounts, this partnership is a success and its implementation is a big win for the community and for our movement. I want to thank my opponent and his administration for making the right decision here. They deserve the credit for negotiating and implementing this shared services agreement. However, I have to take issue with my opponent’s campaign for their false accusations about this development.

As I like to say, video does not lie and you can go to the city’s website and watch for yourself as I propose a 9-1-1 dispatch partnership with Rutgers University at the April 18 City Council meeting.

So you can understand why I was confused to see my opponent’s campaign issue a tweet, one of his first tweets ever, calling my statements about our successful advocacy as “false” and “misinformation.”

I want to reiterate that, no matter what my opponent’s PR team says, this partnership is a victory for our movement, the first of many on the campaign trail and something that ought to be celebrated by all involved.

We have one former New Brunswick dispatcher who went from being an hourly employee to becoming a salaried staff member here at our state university, and seven other dispatchers who became Rutgers staff. These workers received an average raise of $593 to their annual salaries and because they remain in the public sector, they were able to stay in the state pension system.

But, of course, this victory is about more than just those workers. Most importantly, the people of New Brunswick can count on the fact that when they call 9-1-1 to report an emergency, the call will be handled by someone who knows the area, knows it well, and is working in a facility based right here in our community. I’m sure you can imagine why it’s important that our 9-1-1 dispatchers know the difference between Bishop Street, just one block that way, and Bishop Place, which is almost a mile away on a completely different campus. Because we defeated this attempt at privatization, when seconds count, no time will be wasted by connecting your emergency call to a private out-of-state corporation whose workers may not be qualified or familiar with complex geography our great city.

And so as we celebrate this success, I want you to know that it’s just the first of many new partnerships that you can expect to see between the city government here and the largest institution that calls New Brunswick home. If you elect me, we’ll work with partners like Rutgers to develop creative, common-sense solutions that will save taxpayers money, improve the services we offer to the public, and as an advocate for working people, you can count on me to make sure that our public workers are always protected in these partnerships.

The other reason we’re here today is because I’m proud to announce that I will support immediately raising the wages of our lowest-paid city government workers to combat poverty and runaway inequality, to improve the city’s ability to recruit and retain quality staff, and to show solidarity with campaigns to raise the minimum wage for all workers.

Now, I believe everyone working here in New Jersey deserves a living wage. It’s an expensive state to live in and our city is no exception. In fact, it’s especially expensive to live here in New Brunswick. So, I pledge to you today that I will do everything I can to advance the cause of working people here in New Brunswick–not just our city workers, but all working people.

I was disappointed to learn that my opponent heads an operation that pays some of its workers just $8.60 per hour, not a penny more than New Jersey’s bare minimum wage. This, even after he supported the election of Governor Phil Murphy, who has proudly shared his vision for a $15 an hour statewide minimum wage.

Now, that’s a vision that I personally share. But New Brunswick’s government is not setting a good example or practicing what they preach. In fact, they continue to pay workers wages far below what it costs to live here, and therefore, they are part of the problem.

In recent months, the city has failed to heed requests from the community to increase the pay for our city’s crossing guards. Community advocate Danielle Moore has repeatedly asked them to increase that rate to ensure that we have enough guards for the new school year and the new opening of the Robeson Elementary School. But they have declined and dismissed this suggestion.

As of July 1, there were nearly 150 city employees who earned less than $15 per hour, including 50 crossing guards who work hard to keep our kids safe at some very dangerous intersections here. Now, I’ve joined Danielle at City Council meetings, Board of Education meetings, and Traffic Commission meetings where she has been pushing for those crossing guards to get a raise, specifically so that we are not short-staffed when school starts later this week. These calls have been met with responses like, “We’ll take that under advisement.”

Now, contrary to the stagnant status quo, my administration will introduce an ordinance to raise the wages of these city employees to at least $15 per hour within three years. Those who are currently earning $12.50 or more per hour, including all of our crossing guards, will immediately be given raises that will lift their wages to $15 or more per hour. Under this proposal, all city workers currently paid less than $20/hour will receive at least some raise every year for all three years to show our appreciation for their work.

I’m honored today to be joined by Stephanie Hart, one of our hardest-working crossing guards. Miss Stephanie is an excellent crossing guard who has been with the city since April of 2014 and I know how hard she work because she works on my block, at the corner of Suydam and Throop, just a few blocks from here, and she really does an excellent job keeping that intersection safe for the hundreds of pedestrians and thousands of cars that pass through every shift. But this hard-working public employee is paid $13.50 an hour after more than four years of service to New Brunswick.

Under the current ordinance, she’s on track to get a raise to $14.50 next April and then she’d have to work the job another four years before she finally gets paid $15 an hour for her time. Under my plan, she’ll be immediately given a raise to $15 per hour, and then a $.50 raise each year for the next two years because she deserves it and so do our crossing guards.

Now, all of our city workers will be earning at least $12 an hour once this ordinance is adopted immediately. In year two, they’ll all be earning at least $13.50, and by year three, I’m proud to say that all of our city workers will be earning no less than $15 for every hour that they serve the public.

Now, this compares favorably to the Governor’s proposal for raising the statewide minimum wage, which includes a four-year phase-in process that has not yet begun. For our public workers here in New Brunswick, we will do it in three years, with no exceptions and no carve-outs. This will set the best possible example for other communities and for our state government so we can get the strongest bill passed to raise wages for all of our workers as soon as possible.

I will also be recommending that the New Brunswick Parking Authority immediately follow a similar plan for phasing in raises for its lowest wage workers, 55 of whom made less than $15 per hour as of July 1. At the same time, we will begin the work to abolish that agency and transition its core functions into a new Transportation Department that will be more comprehensive and more directly accountable to the residents of New Brunswick. This transition will also save our city money, much like it did in Jersey City. And along with other cost savings measures like combining our Police and Fire Departments into a unified Public Safety Department, these moves will enable us to fund these important and appropriate wage increases without creating a budget imbalance or necessitating a raise in taxes.

Now, let me just say that is only the beginning, the first of many announcements about the my policies and vision for a better New Brunswick, a New Brunswick that doesn’t have a 36% poverty rate, a New Brunswick where everyone has the opportunity to make a good living and to afford to make their home here. Over the next several weeks, I’ll be meeting with advocates for working people and the many unions that represent workers here to discuss other ways that we can advance these important causes and make our city a leader in labor and you can expect to hear a lot more from me and our campaign as we move forward.

Later this month, I will be detailing my plans to bring New Brunswick’s neighborhoods the parking relief that we so desperately need, and how we can eliminate our problematic Parking Authority for good. I hope you’ll be able to join us for that. Thank you so much for being here today. Have a wonderful Labor Day, everyone. God bless.