A History of New Jersey Citizen Action

Since 1982, New Jersey Citizen Action has worked to address long standing social, economic, political, and racial inequalities by advocating for and empowering the working families of New Jersey. We fight to ensure New Jersey works for all New Jerseyans, in particular, low- and moderate-income families, people of color, and the most vulnerable members of our communities. 

Over the course of 41 years, NJCA has been at the forefront of key political victories for health care, financial justice, childcare, housing, education, worker protections and more, and has expanded its free community empowerment services many times over to lift up working families and connect them to the resources they need. NJCAEF’s rich history as a statewide advocate and leading provider of impactful advocacy and collective action, community outreach, and direct services makes us uniquely suited to fight for a better New Jersey for those historically marginalized. 

Our story is one that documents what people, often against all odds, can accomplish when we work together with our allies and listen to the needs of our community. We are able to take on these tough fights because of YOU and all those who have contributed to the work.


NJCA was founded in 1982, with its first office in New Brunswick on Paterson Street. In the coming four decades new offices would open in Hackensack, Collingswood, South Orange, Newark, Highland Park, Cherry Hill, and most recently Elizabeth.

For the first few months, NJCA was named the Citizen Labor Energy Collective before settling on its current name.

In 1983, the NJCA c(3) organization, New Jersey Citizen Action Education Fund, was formed to focus on community outreach, education, and empowerment services.

Advocacy Campaigns:

  • 1983: NJ Worker and Community Right to Know Act requiring public and private employers to provide information about hazardous substances at their workplaces.
  • 1984: Federal Superfund bill for toxic site cleanup, introduced by then-Congressman and later NJ Governor Jim Florio.
  • 1986: New Jersey divestment law to stop state pension investment in entities involved in apartheid states like South Africa.
  • 1989-1990: The Citizens’ Auto Revolt Campaign in coordination with NJ PIRG to protest soaring auto insurance premium rates.


In 1993, NJCA launched its loan counseling program and office.

In the late 90s, NJCA launched its programs on utility consumer education to prevent scams and fraud.

Advocacy Campaigns:

  • 1991: Expanded state property tax and homestead relief to include rental tenants.
  • 1991-1993: First NJCA campaign for universal health care.
  • 1994-1995: Campaign to fight a PSE&G $130 million utility rate hike, winning rebates and rate reductions for NJ consumers.
  • 1996: “The Campaign for Responsible Congress” – NJCA’s first voter education drive, for an open US Senate seat.
  • 1997: The Healthcare Equality Act – protections for HMO and managed care patients.
  • 1997: Stopped a Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield merger that would have produced worse outcomes for NJ patients.
  • 1998-1999: Fought a utility deregulation push, and won rate reductions and protections for NJ consumers.


In 2001, NJCA began its financial education and coaching program, and opened a financial education and technology center in Newark. This included a computer center for training members of the public, and was NJCA’s first full-service office in Newark.

In 2006, NJCA’s EITC tax filing assistance program was founded.

With the emergence of the Great Recession in 2007, NJCA’s housing counseling office shifted to focus on foreclosure prevention, and continued to expand this service in 2009.

In 2008, NJCA formed what is now known as the NJ for Health Care Coalition, which helped lay the foundation for passage of the ACA in 2010. From the Coalition’s founding onwards, NJCA gained national recognition as a leading voice for health care in New Jersey.

2008 saw NJCA’s biggest Get Out The Vote effort to date for the election of Barack Obama, including opening a new office in Irvington.

Advocacy Campaigns:

  • 2002: NJCA formed the Fair Lending Coalition to fight for the successful passage of the NJ Homeownership Security Act. The bill was an anti-predatory lending law requiring certain disclosures and prohibiting certain terms and conditions in home loans. NJ was one of the first states to implement anti-predatory lending policies.
  • 2003: NJCA helped shape the new universal service fund adopted by the NJ Board of Public Utilities to make energy bills more affordable for low-income families.
  • 2005: NJCA successfully campaigned for the first state minimum wage increase in 6 years, from $5.15 to $7.15 an hour.
  • 2006: In the midst of a major utility company merger, NJCA was instrumental in preventing a $100+ million takeover of PSE&G that would have dramatically raised rates for New Jerseyans.
  • 2006: NJCA won passage of the NJ Prescription Drug Price Registry law to help consumers compare the retail prices charged by many pharmacies for the 150 most-frequently prescribed prescription drugs.
  • 2007-2008: After a 12-year NJCA campaign with many partners and allies, New Jersey passed the Family Leave Insurance Law, the second state in the country to provide paid leave to every worker.
  • 2008: NJCA helped pass the New Jersey Health Care Reform Act, which expanded health insurance eligibility and provided more access to affordable health insurance for all children.
  • 2009: In the midst of the Great Recession, NJCA fought for the passage of the NJ Stabilization and Foreclosure Relief Act, which reduced the number of foreclosures of residential properties in New Jersey by offering assistance to qualified homeowners.

Stay tuned for additional history and accomplishments in the last 10 years and more! Sign up for our newsletter here to stay up to date.