Intersectional Coalition Calls for Action on Climate & Worker Protection
New Brunswick, NJ – Hundreds gathered at Anshe Emeth Memorial Temple on Sunday, April 22 to celebrate Workers’ Memorial Day, an annual day of action to remember those who have died or been injured on the job, and raise awareness to prevent future illnesses, injuries, and deaths. This year, Workers’ Memorial Day and Earth Day fell on the same Sunday, creating an opportunity to talk about the connection between climate change and worker safety. The event, organized by New Labor, the New Jersey Work Environment Council, and other partners in the Jersey Renews coalition, brought together a diverse group of workers, immigrants, environmentalists, and health professionals to march and rally for climate and worker justice.
“Climate change is already a public health emergency, and the impacts on workers and communities are only going to get worse. This Earth Day, unions, worker centers, faith groups and environmental organizations are standing in solidarity demanding action on climate change. We recognize that if we want to protect workers and provide safety for everyone, we must reduce greenhouse gas emissions,” said Dan Fatton, executive director of the New Jersey Work Environment Council. “Members of Jersey Renews have aligned behind many strategies to increase clean energy and provide good jobs, while addressing climate,” he continued. “We’re worried about a future full of extreme weather events and the accompanying dangers that often follow during clean-up efforts. We’re concerned about a rapid rise in cases of heat exhaustion, a hazard that laborers, farm workers, and teachers will face even more frequently if we don’t act now. We’re scared that our already over-burdened health care system will be strained even further as disease vectors spread due to a changing climate. The cost of inaction is too high; we must do more to act on climate.”
“We need respect! Respect for us as workers means having safe workplaces. We need employers to be responsible for conditions in the workplace. That’s respect,” said Alberto Jandete, a member of New Labor.
“Temp workers are often sent to work without any training. And if something happens, no one wants to take responsibility. We need statewide legislation that includes health and safety protections like forming health and safety committees. And clear responsibility of who provides training,” said Reynalda Cruz of New Labor.
“We go to work to make a living. We don’t go there to die. Our workplaces need to free of recognized hazards for all workers. And we’ll keep fighting until that happens,” said Louis Kimmel, executive director of New Labor.
“I moved from California to New Jersey for better job opportunities, and decided to live in Central Jersey to escape some of the air pollution in parts of the state,” said Peter Trujillo, member of 32BJ SEIU. “I have managed to avoid health issues due to air pollution and other environmental toxins, but it has come at a cost. Public transportation is not very accessible where I live and moving for cleaner air is not an opportunity everyone has. Many working families can’t find a way out of cities or vulnerable areas when hurricanes or natural disasters hit and many of our neighborhoods are where power plants and refineries sit, making these weather events even more dangerous. The fact is, working people can’t avoid the impact of climate change, and it usually hits us first and worst. That’s why we in the labor movement are on the frontlines of the fight to move away from climate-polluting industries toward healthier, greener options.”
“We share this Workers Memorial Day with those who invoke the sober and sad recollections of those who died on the job or suffered workplace injuries. Nurses stand with communities in calling for respect for the health and safety of working people,” the Board of Directors of New York State Nurses Association said in a statement.
“We demand safe working conditions so we can have the best environment for our students to achieve their dreams. NJEA knows that students, parents, and communities thrive when workers are protected,” NJEA president Marie Blistan said.
Many in the Garden State have already seen firsthand the impact of climate change in the form of Superstorm Sandy and a wave of extreme temperatures over the past few years. Climate change is going to continue to have a major impact on a number of professions and workers will suffer. As the temperature increases, workers are more likely to suffer from heat stroke, exhaustion, and even death. The increased temperatures also magnify air pollution, causing or exacerbating respiratory illnesses, heart diseases, and allergies in urban and well-trafficked areas. Workers who spend time outdoors will see an increased risk of diseases like Zika and Lyme’s as the longer summers create larger habitats for disease vectors like ticks and mosquitos. On this Workers’ Memorial Day, attendees are marching together and demanding our leaders enact strong climate policies that will protect workers.
New Labor is a membership-based organization of largely low-wage Latino workers that educates, organizes, and fights for better working conditions. For more information, please visit www.newlabor.org.
New Jersey Work Environment Council is an alliance of 70 labor, community, and environmental organizations advocating for safe, secure jobs and a healthy, sustainable environment. For more information, please visit www.njwec.org.
Jersey Renews is a broad-based coalition of 60 labor, environment, faith, health and community organizations pushing for more state-based action on climate, including increased clean energy, fewer emissions, and more good, family-sustaining jobs. For more information, please visit www.jerseyrenews.org.