Mayor Ras J. Baraka was joined today by the City’s premiere corporate CEOs and leaders of social justice, community development, and educational institutions at a City Hall news conference as he announced a landmark initiative designed to strengthen the city’s economy.
Newark’s political, business, education, clergy and social service communities, came together to commit to joining forces in an effort to bring jobs and economic opportunity to Newark residents.
“It’s not normal for us to expect the city to grow, to expect crime to reduce, to expect our economy to thrive, to expect families to be secure and wholesome and growing with an unemployment rate that constantly is twice that of the state or twice that of the federal government,” said Mayor Ras Baraka.
The new plan, Hire. Buy. Live. Newark. The goal is to hire 2,020 Newark residents, both high-skill and entry-level at a variety of Newark’s largest employers, including Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital, Prudential, Audible, Panasonic, Rutgers University and more.
At the center of the plan is a study by the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice. What it shows is that 62 percent of Newarkers are working poor – and two-thirds of residents make less than $40,000 a year. Forty-two percent of kids in the city live below the poverty line. While just about three quarters of Newark residents are people of color, nearly two thirds of workers in the city are white and residents hold just 18 percent of all jobs in the city.
“The disparities in employment in the city of Newark cannot be explained by Newark residents not wanting to work or being unqualified to work,” noted New Jersey Institute for Social Justice President and CEO Ryan Haygood. “Instead, these disparities reflect systematic challenges that require a systematic response.”
“I pledge publicly that we shall hire 350 Newarkers by 2020,” promised RWJ Barnabas Health CEO Barry Ostrowsky.
Rutgers Chancellor Nancy Cantor promised that the university will continue its commitment to the city.
“You can’t democratize the economy until you democratize education,” she said, “so everything we’re doing in the Newark City of Learning Collaborative is the same thing as what we’ll be doing when Rutgers collectively commits to 220 jobs to Newark residents by 2020.”
“I’ve been in Newark all my life. My grandfather came here in 1899, so I can say whatever the hell I want about Newark,” he began. “We have been disappointed before, heartfelt disappointment. However, I will say it feels different, it sounds different, it looks different. One of my tropes is ‘my optimism is always guarded.’ I will divest myself of that qualifier today and say I am optimistic.”
The city itself, Baraka said, currently only sources about 12 percent of the supplies it buys from city vendors.
The effects of changing that and other hiring and buying practices, Baraka said, will “reverberate throughout every family and every neighborhood” in Newark.
Only 18% of the jobs in Newark are held by city residents, a proportion much lower than most major cities. Newark 2020 aims to change that equation. It is a collaborative hiring strategy in which partners commit to identifying a set number of specific job slots over the course of the next four years that will need to be filled. The participants are building a system that includes training and hiring pathways to the jobs available to Newark residents.
Every unemployed and underemployed Newark resident is eligible to benefit from Newark2020.
For additional information on the collective effort to transform Newark, please read a four part report commissioned by Prudential Financial, featured in The Atlantic describing Newark Hire.Buy.Live: