Baraka Launching ‘Newark 2020’ Jobs Program

Newark's mayor is hoping to cut the jobless rate in the state's largest city.

Newark Mayor Ras Baraka. Max Pizarro for Observer

Newark Mayor Ras Baraka is launching a jobs program for the state’s largest city, aiming to find full-time employment for 2,020 residents by 2020.

Baraka announced the Newark 2020 initiative today following the release of a new report by the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice that found a wide economic disparity between the city’s residents and the large corporate workforce that commutes in and out of Newark every day.

Newark residents hold 18 percent of the jobs in the city, a low rate compared with other cities of similar size across the country, according to the report, and although the population is majority black and Latino, 60 percent of the city workforce is white.

“Newark 2020 is an unprecedented initiative in the city of Newark, bringing together the city’s business community, higher education and medical institutions, non-profits, clergy, philanthropies, and workforce development programs to reduce poverty and unemployment and strengthen the city’s economy by the beginning of the next decade,” Baraka, a Democrat, said in a statement.

The mayor is partnering with the Institute for Social Justice, the Newark Alliance, Rutgers University in Newark, RWJ Barnabas Health, Prudential, and other employers, and he said the goal is to cut in half the distance between the city’s unemployment rate (6.6 percent as of December, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics) and that of the state (4.2 percent).

The report calls for raising the minimum wage to $12 and then $15 an hour, strengthening the state’s ban-the-box law and the city’s first source ordinance, which calls for employing city residents on development projects.

“Fifty years ago this month, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., looked to Newark and other urban communities and explained that the country consisted of ‘two Americas,’ divided by race,” said Ryan P. Haygood, president of the Institute for Social Justice. “Fifty years later, perhaps no other city embodies both the reality of the two Americas and the possibility of bridging these entrenched divides more than the city of Newark.”

Baraka Launching ‘Newark 2020’ Jobs Program