Since 1982, New Jersey Citizen Action has worked to address longstanding social, economic, political, and racial inequalities by advocating for and empowering the working families of New Jersey. We fight to ensure New Jersey works for all New Jerseyans, in particular low- and moderate-income families, people of color, and the most vulnerable members of our communities.
Over the course of 40 years, NJCA has been at the forefront of key political victories for health care, financial justice, childcare, housing, education, worker protections and more, and has expanded its free community empowerment services many times over to lift up working families and connect them to the resources they need.
Join us throughout 2022 as we celebrate the leaders, advocates and organizers that helped build NJCA, look back on how New Jersey has changed, and chart a course for the future of NJCA community support and activism.
Snapshots In History
Following the disastrous March 24th, 1989 Exxon oil spill in Valdez, Alaska, NJCA activists led a demonstration at the Exxon Stockholder meeting on May 18th. In Parsippany, organizations rallied to demand Exxon be held responsible for all clean up costs, sign a pledge to stop oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, use safer tankers, and establish a $1 billion trust fund for Alaska to pay for any and all future environmental damage there. (1/2) NJCA founding member John Atlas addresses the crowd of over 300 people, representing numerous environmental and citizen groups, quoted saying “Americans know they are being cheated…. Exxon has double crossed the public and the environment by not being adequately prepared for the disaster and then charging the consumer to pay for the clean up”. On April 10th, 1985, NJCA hosted a Healthcare Rally in Cranford, NJ with Senator Frank Lautenberg attended by over 300 senior citizens and community leaders. NJCA Healthcare Coalition asked Sen. Lautenberg to oppose all Reagan era cuts in cost-of-living adjustments (COLA) for social security recipients, cuts in Medicare and Medicaid. (1/2) On July 31, 1985, after months of intense debate, the U.S. Congress passed a budget that left the Social Security COLA, Medicare and Medicaid intact. These victories were only possible after months of rallies and press events by organizations like NJCA. (2/2) Leading up to the 1984 Election, NJCA helped to establish a coalition of community partners and faith-based organizations throughout the state to drive voter registration in underserved communities throughout New Jersey. (1/3) Much of this initiative was organized and driven by Alma Hill, an early leader of NJCA and its board of directors’ co-chair.
“We have to show people how to mobilize and empower themselves, how to educate other and how to use their power for positive change.” – Alma Hill (2/3) “I was so impressed that they (NJCA) wanted to include the church in the early stages – when they were still planning their issues. We are such a diverse group of people in NJCA. And to have such a diverse group of people who are on the firing line. They really are all active people and participating in their jobs and in their communities. They want to see justice done, for everybody, not just the few.” – Alma Hill (3/3) To campaign for new tax revenues in NJ be raised from wealthy taxpayers, NJCA hosted a Citizen’s Conference for Fair Taxes and Fair Budget, drawing more than 250 community and union activists.
On December 20th, 1982, NJCA was victorious in passing the Fair Share Tax Reform, despite the veto from Governor Kean. The bill prevented $150 million in state and local budget cuts that would have included cutting back on road repairs, reduced aid to schools and cities, lay-offs of state workers and teachers and increased mass transit affairs. Following a period of deregulation of chemical companies from the Bush and Reagan administrations and failure to act on a national level, local grassroots organizations across the country campaigned to fight against toxic contamination. (1/3) In response to this crisis, NJCA and a broad-based coalition enacted a months-long campaign involving letter-writing, media and organizing, and a statewide lobbying event to pass a resolution on cleaning up toxic chemicals in New Jersey. (2/3) NJCA was successful in advocating for passage of the Right to Know bill, phasing-out the use of landfills for storage of hazardous waste, reducing hazardous waste generation, expansion of Superfund money for toxic waste cleanup, and improving worker protection from toxic substances. (3/3) On March 15th, 1984 NJCA, alongside more than 700 citizens from over 60 different communities overwhelmed the NJ Statehouse on “Taking Back Trenton” Day. NJCA called for the passage of:
The Job Retention Act requiring large companies to give 6-months’ notice of plants closing, mandatory severance pay, and health benefits to those left unemployed;
The Tax Appeal Reform Act to qualify the majority of NJ’s taxpayers for an income tax credit;
The Comparable Worth Pay Act to compare wages paid for male-dominated jobs with those paid for female-dominated jobs;
The Pesticide Control Act to promote the safe use of chemical pesticides in NJ.
The year NJCA was founded, the organization’s first newsletter was released. Take a look back with us to October 1982 to see where we started and how far we’ve come: