In creating a proper route to honor the local labor movement for our free and inclusive Labor Day Ride this coming Monday, September 7th (starting from the Colored Musicians Club, 145 Broadway, 6:30pm, see below for the many pandemic-induced changes to Slow Roll), we reached out to Holly Nowak, director of the Coalition for Economic Justice (CEJ), who noted many sites as well as the fact that CEJ formed in part around the ultimately futile fight to keep thousands of jobs in Buffalo through Trico, whose former Tri-Main factory now holds CEJ’s headquarters, as explained and pictured below.

What inspired the creation of CEJ?

The CEJ was founded in 1986 as a collaborative effort of religious, labor and community leaders, which continues to make up our base today. The original group united in a campaign organized to stop the Trico corporation from moving good manufacturing jobs to Mexico.

How has the organization evolved since its founding?

Since our founding, CEJ has remained a coalition of faith, labor, and community joined in the fight for corporate and government accountability, sustainable economic development, and worker justice. In the past five years, CEJ has been involved in a variety of campaigns, such as the Fight for $15, Buffalo Transit Riders United (BTRU), the Poor People’s Campaign (PPC), and in support of workers unionizing or negotiating contracts, such as Wendt, Catholic Health, and the ATU.

How has the pandemic affected the organization and overall cause?

The pandemic has served as an amplifier for a lot of issues our people have been facing for a long time. Access to food and household goods, adequate healthcare, steady employment, affordable childcare, stable housing, these are not new problems, but the pandemic creates a sense of urgency around these needs that we haven’t seen in a long time.

Not only did this make our work with BTRU and the PPC that much more relevant, but it helped a group of people recognize the utility of a local mutual aid network. The Buffalo Mutual Aid Network (BMAN) was started as a response to Covid-19; it is an effort in solidarity – not charity – in the form of peer-to-peer organizing, humanitarian assistance, and reliable information sharing. There’s more information on BMAN on our website and Facebook.

How does the work of CEJ align with that of Slow Roll?

CEJ believes in the importance of mobility and environmental justice. BTRU is a campaign built by public transit riders advocating for a more equitable, affordable, expansive, and accessible transit system in our city. Part of this fight is working to change the perception of different ways to navigate our world without the use of individual cars, be it walking, biking, or public transit.

What should folks on our Labor Day Ride look for related to the work of CEJ?

The TriMain Building at 2495 Main Street, connected with the Trico corporation from our origin and also where we currently have our office. The route will also take you by several fast food restaurants, where CEJ engaged in actions for the fight for $15 minimum wage. You will also be passing the medical campus and Fruit Belt neighborhood, where CEJ was a part of a coalition working with the residents of the Fruit Belt in their fight for their neighborhood.

How can folks get involved with CEJ?

Folks can sign up to volunteer at our website, or email me at Holly@cejbuffalo.org, and also find us on Facebook at CEJ Buffalo, Buffalo Transit Riders United and WNY Poor People’s Campaign.