A group of activists from the “Camden We Choose” coalition, backed by several Camden and New Jersey-based advocacy groups, got a ballot measure passed in the city of Camden that would require all businesses, nonprofit organizations and corporations with 25 or more employees that operate in the city to annually report how many of their employees live within city limits.
The measure aims to combat the city’s unemployment and poverty rates, which are higher than county, state and national averages, by informing the public of resident employee rates to help inform decisions about resource allocation and the need for more employment opportunities and training in the area. Activists who collected more than 1500 signatures in support of the law also wanted to bring attention to the corporations and businesses that received tax breaks to operate in Camden but did not reinvest in the larger city community.
The ordinance, called the Semi-Annual Employee Residency Report, was adopted on Aug. 9, 2022, and the initial deadline for reporting was Feb. 1, 2023, with a grace period that lasted until March 3, 2023. Rowan University’s human resources department did not turn in the report for how many employees of the Camden campus lived in the city before the end of the grace period.
According to Theresa Drye, chief human resources officer and vice president of the human resources department, the university filed its report on March 24 after a hotline complaint and was not made aware of the ordinance due to the primary campus being located in Glassboro.
“We have voluntarily provided this information for many years to representatives of the city upon request… we established an electronic process to automatically complete this report semi-annually, as required,” Drye said.
The report showed that of the 153 Rowan employees that work in Camden, 35 were residents and 118 were non-residents of the city.
Antoinette Miles is the political director of the New Jersey Working Families Party.
“I think I give them a failing grade here in terms of giving this information and being forthright with it… If you look at some of the other entities, the numbers comparatively are in a more stable place. So I think this was a failure, not just for Rowan, but also on the city to actually educate them and say, ‘Hey, you do have to comply with this ordinance,’” Miles said.
According to the law, reports between one and 30 days late may be subject to fines of $25 per day. Anything later may result in a suspension of the employer license given by the city of Camden, though it is unclear if there has been any move on the part of the city government to enact such a penalty against any of the employers that filed late or failed to file.
According to Joe Cardona, vice president for university relations and the university spokesperson, Rowan will not be facing any penalty because they were not aware of the ordinance and complied with it as soon as they were made aware of the issue.
“We have a wonderful relationship with the city of Camden… It’s important to have people in the community, who live in the community, working in the community. And so we do our role, whenever there’s a job posting… make sure that people have access to be able to apply to it… We’re two big organizations, I’m sure that someone got a letter and they just didn’t react to it, and it just slipped through. We’re happy to provide those numbers and help the city. It’s a good goal,” Cardona said.
Rowan’s Camden campus has proportionally more resident employees than most other employers in the city, with 22.87% of employees being residents. Cooper Health System has 10% of its workforce as residents of Camden, Subaru’s employees are 1.27% residents, Holtec employees are 2% residents, Lockheed Martin Corp employees are 1% residents and the Rutgers University of Camden employees are 9% residents.
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