Climate Justice is Worker Justice

Exhibition Open: August—October, 2021
Zimmerli Art Museum and Alexander Library
71 Hamilton St, New Brunswick, NJ

1856: View of New Brunswick highlighting the city as industry and transportation hub.

Courtesy of Zimmerli Art Museum.

Ca. 1930: Immigrant workers in New Brunswick cigar factory.
 
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Ca. 1930: Immigrant workers in New Brunswick cigar factory.

Courtesy of American Hungarian Foundation/Rutgers University.

2018: Immigrant workers in New Brunswick, protesting for “safe work and a living wage.”
 
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2018: Immigrant workers in New Brunswick, protesting for “safe work and a living wage.”

Courtesy of Louis Kimmel (New Labor).

The Problem
The Roots
The Solutions

Many New Brunswick residents work in poor conditions exacerbated by extreme weather induced by climate change, often in perma-temporary positions for low pay. Recent immigrants, many undocumented, flock to “temp towns” like New Brunswick, where the population is 56% Latinx and agencies hire with a nod and wink. Inadequate training and unsafe employer practices force laborers to work in dangerous temperatures.

As the “hub city” for tristate-area transportation and low-wage jobs, New Brunswick has historically attracted large immigrant groups unable to secure better-paying jobs due to xenophobia: nineteenth-century Irish canal builders, twentieth-century Hungarian factory workers, and twenty-first century Latinx service workers. Employers have capitalized on language barriers and labor availability to exploit workers.

New Labor supports, educates, and organizes workers, operating the Latino Occupational Safety and Health Initiative and advocating for climate change protections in labor law.

2018: New Labor and others raise awareness about impact of climate change on worker safety.
2017: Workers march through New Brunswick with faux coffin, chanting “ni una muerte más.”
1920: Immigrant workers in New Brunswick truck factory.
2018: Workers in New Brunswick attend a Worker’s Memorial Day service.
Immigrant workers and New Labor members in New Brunswick protest poor treatment of temp workers.
1880: View of New Brunswick featuring industrial riverfront.
2007: New Brunswick’s neighborhoods where many residents are transported out for temp work daily.
2018: New Labor and others raise awareness about impact of climate change on worker safety.
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2018: New Labor and others raise awareness about impact of climate change on worker safety.

Courtesy of USW, Jersey Renews, New Labor, NJWEC.

2017: Workers march through New Brunswick with faux coffin, chanting “ni una muerte más.”
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2017: Workers march through New Brunswick with faux coffin, chanting “ni una muerte más.”

Courtesy of Jack Murtha.

1920: Immigrant workers in New Brunswick truck factory.
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1920: Immigrant workers in New Brunswick truck factory.

Courtesy of American Hungarian Foundation/Rutgers University.

2018: Workers in New Brunswick attend a Worker’s Memorial Day service.
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2018: Workers in New Brunswick attend a Worker’s Memorial Day service.

Courtesy of Middlesex County.

Immigrant workers and New Labor members in New Brunswick protest poor treatment of temp workers.
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Immigrant workers and New Labor members in New Brunswick protest poor treatment of temp workers.

Courtesy of Kevin Palomo.

1880: View of New Brunswick featuring industrial riverfront.
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1880: View of New Brunswick featuring industrial riverfront.

Courtesy of New Brunswick Free Public Library Archives.

2007: New Brunswick’s neighborhoods where many residents are transported out for temp work daily.
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2007: New Brunswick’s neighborhoods where many residents are transported out for temp work daily.

Courtesy of New Brunswick Free Public Library Archives.

Additional Media

Fear of deportation pins immigrant workers to exploitative and dangerous jobs

Courtesy of Maria Isabel Espinoza and students in the Spring 2019 Public History Course at Rutgers University–New Brunswick.

Additional Media

Power struggles between immigrant and non-immigrant workers 

Courtesy of Maria Isabel Espinoza and students in the Spring 2019 Public History Course at Rutgers University–New Brunswick.

Additional Media

Poor temperature control limits workplace efficiency

Courtesy of Maria Isabel Espinoza and students in the Spring 2019 Public History Course at Rutgers University–New Brunswick.

Additional Media

Empowered workers stress the importance of self-advocacy 

Courtesy of Maria Isabel Espinoza and students in the Spring 2019 Public History Course at Rutgers University–New Brunswick.

Additional Media

Temperatures in factories and warehouses endanger workers 

Courtesy of Maria Isabel Espinoza and students in the Spring 2019 Public History Course at Rutgers University–New Brunswick.

Our Point of View

University Partners
Community Partners

Our team acknowledges the deep interconnectivity between historical inequalities, environmental injustice, and the importance of participating in collective action to improve working conditions. Through this project, we have learned more about the historical infrastructure and demographics that have led immigrants, especially the Latinx community, to face the worst of climate change. We hope that this project will amplify our community partner’s message and reflect their political agency, while inspiring civic engagement.

—Rutgers University-New Brunswick Department of History

New Labor supports, educates, and organizes workers while fighting to improve conditions of workplace health and safety, and participating in activities that create hyperlocal solidarity between the environmental and worker justice movements. Be it through learning exchanges between low-wage immigrant workers and environmental activities, or fighting for statewide initiatives to create worker/climate protections where there are none, New Labor creates relationships to make change because they believe that we are all in this together: climate justice is worker justice.

—New Labor

Contributors

University Partners

Rutgers University-New Brunswick Department of History

Faculty Project Director Kristin O'Brassill-Kulfan
Students Elizabeth Alt Elias Attal Brianna Attamante Zachary Batista Nicole Bellmay Christopher Chan Awais Chaudry Camille DuBois Maria Isabel Espinoza Matthew Fairchild Timothy Flynn Mitchell Frishberg Cara Del Gaudio Marlene Hyacinth Gaynair Ala' Jitan Mitchell Kevett Louis Lanza Matthew Lou Jerrad Pacatte Tate Potts Lisseth Quizhpi Stephanny Ramos Robert Schenker Jennifer Schneider Lauren Smith Cali Swantek Olivia Di Trolio Mark Umansky Brandon Vasquez Daniel Venetsky Lara Worthington Hallel Yadin

Community Partners

New Labor

Lou Kimmel
Carmen Martino