A statement from Charles Wowkanech, New Jersey State AFL-CIO President

The New Jersey State AFL-CIO’s officers and staff continue to advocate for the needs of union brothers and sisters who have been gut-punched by the coronavirus outbreak and all of its health and economic impacts. Secretary-Treasurer Laurel Brennan and I are in constant contact with New Jersey’s U.S. senators and House representatives as they negotiate a bill to send direct payments to families, fix unemployment and send aid to states and medical facilities.

We also have had many conference calls and other direct communications with Gov. Phil Murphy and his administration, to make clear how badly everyone needs their hard-earned benefits as well as essential supplies and safe working conditions. These are unprecedented times, and the steps our governor is taking to ensure our health and safety are serious. We support what he’s doing and we urge all brothers and sisters to play by the rules.

Our sisters and brothers are on the front lines in every business sector, keeping New Jersey safe and healthy while putting themselves in harm’s way. Nurses and doctors are in the spotlight, of course, but let’s not forget the longshoremen who are keeping the ports open, first responders who are keeping order, and building trades who are making sure there’s going to be an economy when all of this is over. Our transit workers face the public as they get them to work or essential services daily. Our service workers are sanitizing everything anybody touches. Our retail workers are keeping the stores stocked while trying to keep the customers calm.

And union brothers and sisters are stepping up by donating their time and their equipment, especially masks and protection equipment, to the workers who need it the most. This shows that when we come together and creatively harness our power, we will defeat this virus!

From the front lines: ShopRite workers are getting a $2-an-hour raise, along with enhanced sick benefits, during the coronavirus emergency. This affects people working for ShopRite, The Fresh Grocer, Dearborn Market, Price Rite Marketplace and Gourmet Garage stores.

Stop & Shop previously announced 10 percent increases at its stores in New Jersey and along the East Coast.

UFCW Proud!

Companies listed as essential by the governor’s executive orders that need workers during the crisis are posting jobs on New Jersey’s COVID-19 Information Hub, https://covid19.nj.gov

If you need to file for unemployment or other benefits: Phone lines into the Department of Labor and Workforce Development have been jammed, and the website at https://www.nj.gov/labor/ has been slow.

But folks in the know, out in the real world, say your best bet for a smooth experience filing your claim is to file late at night, maybe even during the overnight/early morning hours.

If your kids are home from school: Murphy announced today that New Jersey has applied for – and is expected to receive – a waiver for all standardized testing this spring. He said this will not hurt the graduation requirements of any student in the state, as long as they stay current with their lessons.

The governor said schools will continue to be closed for the foreseeable future. He could not predict a reopening date.

About those much-needed masks: New Jersey soon will receive 200,000 N95 masks and 84,000 respirators from the federal stockpile, Murphy said. The shipment helps, he said, but the state’s frontline heroes still need many more. He noted that PSE&G donated 50,000 masks and that Plumbers Local 24 has made a sizable donation. We’re thankful for their generosity.

The New Jersey State Police are coordinating donations of Personal Protective Equipment via an email contact at ppedonations@njsp.org

If you really need a test: People who have COVID-19 symptoms – high fever, dry cough, shortness of breath – and who have a doctor’s note can go to FEMA-operated testing centers at Bergen County Community College in Paramus or the PNC Bank Arts Center in Holmdel.

Union and Hudson county residents have test sites, and Passaic and Ocean counties are about to open their own. These test sites are for their respective county’s residents only, and are by appointment through the county Health Department. Even if you have an appointment, if you do not have symptoms, you will be turned away.

Still on tap: Murphy has banned all water shutoffs during the crisis. No home or business will go without water because of unpaid bills, he said.

On the U.S. horizon: Federal legislation may come as soon as tonight that will provide direct relief to families. Leaders in the Senate and House of Representatives aim for a compromise that helps workers first, and not corporations. You can step up for workers by clicking here and calling your senator to let him know where you stand.

He Said It (actually, tweeted it): “I said it before but it needs to be said again: life is not coming to a complete standstill in New Jersey. Grocery stores will continue to get food and toilet paper. Stop overbuying. Start being more considerate of fellow New Jerseyans.” – Gov. Phil Murphy