New Jersey is at a crossroads: Our economy is strong but could grow stronger, our infrastructure has improved slowly but continues to fail our residents and businesses, and, despite our state’s role in one of the biggest economic corridors in the entire world, wages, jobs and quality of life lag in several metrics.
At the Engineers Labor-Employer Cooperative, or ELEC, we know these are solvable problems — and we’re on the front lines to fix them, grow our economy and bring our state into the 21st century.
We see the future of labor organizing as being about partnership, economic development and comprehensive improvements to the energy, transportation and water systems on which all businesses and residents of our state rely. After all, growing the economy creates good-paying jobs for our members, directly benefits the residents of New Jersey, and delivers high-quality, long-lasting infrastructure where our state needs it most.
It’s no secret — and no coincidence — that both New Jersey’s economy and our infrastructure could be on healthier footing. We live in one of the most dynamic, influential and fast-paced states in the country. The roads, rails, bridges, energy and water systems and buildings in New Jersey are conduits for tens of billions in economic activity alone. And when ELEC works with all stakeholders to improve that picture holistically, everybody wins — not just our members.
That’s why we work closely with legislators, policymakers, experts and business leaders across the state to prioritize smart infrastructure policy and fair labor policy, and to catalyze economic development in other ways. Our model “safe crane” ordinance, for example, encourages towns to protect residents and promote safe construction work. Our work with chambers of commerce, professional associations and industry coalitions helps encourage smart regulations and responsible economic development.
It’s equally important for developers, contactors and operating engineers to be able to work effectively and immediately once a project is ready to go. We assist developers in advancing their plans through New Jersey’s confusing regulatory and approval patchwork, while also advocating for smart, safe changes to those regulations that encourage responsible development and construction. At every step of the process, ELEC champions the work of our partner associations and our members to deliver results for New Jersey and the state’s economy.
Credential reimbursement programs, for example, cover the costs of members investing in the credentials they need to work specific jobs. Our market recovery program allows union contractors to bid and win contracts in private-sector markets in which union labor is underrepresented.
Our state simply cannot grow without prioritizing and investing in our infrastructure systems. Our energy systems across the board — from generation to transmission, commercial and industrial to residential use — are nearing capacity, constricting growth and risking a coming era of shortages, higher prices and instability. We support clean natural gas. We support offshore wind. And we support grid resiliency improvements to make sure New Jersey has the systems in place to let our economy grow.
These may not be the most glamorous causes, but they drive our economy forward and improve the lives of New Jerseyans. At ELEC, that’s our priority. With our members, contractors, policymakers and all stakeholders, we’re not just building roads or power lines; we’re Building Our Future.
Mark Longo is director of the Engineers Labor-Employer Cooperative.