Famed labor leader A. Phillip Randolph once opined that “the essence of trade unionism is social uplift.” That sentiment embodies what the mission of trade unionism was at its inception. A foundation built upon protecting workers from an abusive system and ensuring that those individuals received a livable wage and reasonable benefits. As a member of the Carpenters Union and raised in a union household, I readily admit that I am biased towards seeing the benefits of unions and recognizing their important role in our economic and political structures. However, the question that we should more broadly ask ourselves today, coming out of the shadow of another Labor Day holiday, is whether or not unions still matter in our country.
As we approach Labor Day, we are reminded that the current state of the American worker and the job market is in a turbulent period. Newspaper headlines and political leaders like to tout reduced unemployment figures, but hidden within those flashy headlines is the fact that too many people are still under employed, having to work multiple jobs to make ends meet or simply only able to find part-time employment if at all. Also, with the participation in the job force, as measured by the U.S. Department of Labor, at the lowest numbers in decades we are given a false sense that our nation’s employment situation isn’t that bad. Unfortunately, it is.
One of the earth’s most precious commodities is water. Every ecosystem on our planet depends on it for survival, but yet we are challenged globally with accessing clean and reliable drinking water. According to The Water Project, nearly 1 billion people worldwide lack access to clean drinking water. Growing populations spur demand for more industries and farmland, thus draining water resources more rapidly than ever. Furthermore, those in the most barren of areas spend so much time searching and gathering suitable clean water, that they suffer poor healthcare, loss of education time and work opportunities. Couple these facts with the effects of climate change altering rainfall patterns, and it illustrates why more attention is needed on this critical issue both around the world and here at home. Remember, unlike reducing our carbon footprint, there is no alternative or substitute to promote for clean drinking water.
I have been thinking recently about the special bond our country has with its military veterans. As the grandson of a World War II Navy veteran, I am acutely aware of our nation's commitment to its veterans and their families, who have sacrificed to preserve our freedom. I cherish this bond and recognize the duty that those of us who have benefitted from the protection and security that these patriots have made possible owe for their service and sacrifice. This week’s contribution to the Summer Policy Series, takes a look at the initiatives I have worked on with regard to honoring the service of our state’s veterans.
The next topic that I want to explore in this Summer Series Legislative Recap is that of the economic development initiatives I have sought to advance. My focus in this area is uncomplicated. We need an economic development agenda that is forward-thinking and allows innovation to advance while igniting investment, preparing our workforce to meet the challenges of the jobs of tomorrow and leading our economy towards a sustained path of inclusive economic prosperity. Sounds easy right?
One of the the aspects that I enjoy the most about my job as a state representative is meeting new and interesting people. One such individual is my friend, Dr. Nicole Gillespie. Dr. Gillespie is the Executive Director & CEO of the Knowles Teacher Initiative. This organization was founded in 1999 to increase the number of high quality high school math and science teachers with the ultimate goal of improving STEM education in our country. They are working everyday to ensure that we have an ample supply of teachers prepared to help our students meet the challenges that await them in our burgeoning STEM world.
As a continuation of our Summer Series Legislative Recap, I wanted to highlight the proposals I have sponsored on energy and environmental policy. New Jersey has a unique and somewhat tortured history with respect to the environment. This history has shaped my thinking on how to effectively protect the environment, while rejecting that it is a binary choice versus growing our economy. Much of my thinking in this area is based on the concept of “environmental pragmatism”. This concept envisions a new ideological approach to addressing the issues confronting our environment, while not pitting the environment against economic growth strategies.
Taxes present an obstacle for legislators. It is one of the most common subjects that arises in a campaign and remains on one’s agenda long after the election is over. I suspect that one of the reasons that it evokes such emotion is that it affects most people. You work, play by the rules and then see that portion of your money gone from your paycheck. It can make you wince, and even if you don’t pay taxes, you feel its impact on everything from services to infrastructure.
While taking the time the other day to sort through a staple of newspapers and magazines, I came across an article devoted to a summer reading list. It’s a good idea because it exposes everyone to a different reading experience that you might not otherwise consider.