Time to Build NJ’s Democracy from the Bottom UP

Once upon a time, Sue Altman – New Jersey Working Families’ new State Director – had to school Chris Christie on some facts. And he had to toss her the mic to do it. Promoted by Rosi.

I am thrilled to be the new State Director for New Jersey Working Families. As many in the Blue Jersey family know, I’ve been a teacher, New Jersey activist, grassroots organizer, and even professional basketball player (more on that later).

Working Families has been at the center of some of New Jersey’s biggest progressive wins. A $15 minimum wage, earned sick time for all, and automatic voter registration. And the organization worked hand in hand with partner groups and the grassroots to get it done.

I should know. Since 2016, I’ve served on the leadership board for South Jersey Women for Progressive Change, an all-volunteer group that helped to oust Republican Congressman Tom MacArthur. New Jersey has seen an outpouring of activist energy since the 2016 election. But the inequalities we see every day in New Jersey didn’t start and won’t end with Donald Trump.

I worked as a high school teacher and basketball coach here in New Jersey in 2007 at a private school. I loved teaching and coaching kids, but as a product of public education myself, I was alarmed by the inequities I saw. While Chris Christie was cutting public education and attacking my public school colleagues, children of the very wealthy in prep schools like the one I taught at were enjoying a full array of arts, music, sports, and small class sizes. Spoiler alert: more than ten years later, it’s still true.

Our political class marginalizes the working class and communities of color, and even uses their plight to justify projects that line their own pockets. They exploit divisions of class, race, and even of region. They’ve pitted us against each other while continuing to consolidate power and wealth for themselves.

These are features, not bugs, of a democracy that is broken by design.

In a state so reliably “blue,” we should be at the forefront of progressive policy-making, most of which are popular with normal, working Americans anyway. Tax fairness, so that the wealthy pay their fair share instead of shifting the burden to working class and middle-class homeowners. Ending corporate welfare. Legalizing marijuana. Voting rights for all. Free public education from preschool through college. Fully investing in clean energy. Fixing our broken transit system. Drivers licenses for undocumented immigrants. Stopping wage theft.

This is why Working Families exists. To expand the borders of the possible. To turn grassroots energy into electoral power. To fight transactional politics with transformative vision. To build a New Jersey for the many, not the powerful and privileged few.

It’s time to rebuild New Jersey’s democracy from the bottom up. Now, let’s get to work.

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