For Immediate Release: Thursday, July 9, 2020 Contact: Debra Coyle McFadden, Director, NJ Work Environment Council, 609-707-1320, firstname.lastname@example.org Claire Barnett, Executive Director, Healthy Schools Network, 202-543-7555 ADVOCATES RELEASE PLAN TO REOPEN SCHOOLS PANDEMIC V. SCHOOLS: A NATIONAL CALL TO ACTION School Buildings and Occupants Can Speed or Slow the Spread of COVID-19 As pressure mounts for schools to reopen this fall, awareness is growing of the need for specific plans on how schools will not just open, but stay open, by protecting the health of children and their families, teachers, administrators and school staff. By their nature, schools are an environment conducive to the spread of illnesses, including COVID-19. They are densely occupied for long periods and have a well-documented history of deferred maintenance which has resulted in well-known problems with ventilation and indoor air and plumbing, and challenges in cleaning. The virus is not going away. Moreover, the poorest communities hardest hit by COVID-19 also send their children to the poorest schools in the worst condition, making this a supremely challenging health and education equity and rights problem with no quick solution. Today the NJ Work Environment Council (WEC) and the national Coalition for Healthier Schools co-released a National Call to Action for state health agencies to provide [...]
Reality check: No one is safe from the ravages of COVID 19. After all, nurses, warehouse workers and celebrities like Tom Hanks alike are getting sick. Actually, if you work for low pay, are a person of color, or live in a crowded urban area, you’re more likely to get sick and less likely to be able to get the treatment you need. It’s no coincidence these people are the most vulnerable. The air is worse to begin with in struggling communities, causing pre-existing conditions that heighten susceptibility to the virus. No, this isn’t a “we’re all in this together moment.” Unfortunately, the coronavirus exposes our unpreparedness for a health disaster, and longstanding fault lines between the haves and have nots. Read the full opinion-editorial from the Satr-Ledger by Debra Coyle McFadden, executive director, WEC.
Here in New Jersey, warehouse workers have been classified by the state as essential workers. It’s not hard to understand why. As COVID-19 spreads, these workers are the ones ensuring that food, cleaning products, medicine, and other vital goods are distributed to millions of people. But while the state government rightly considers warehouse workers essential, their employers treat them as disposable. That’s wrong and unacceptable, especially during this pandemic. Too many New Jersey residents employed in warehouses are still not given the protection and respect they deserve. According to news reports and first-hand accounts, COVID-19 is spreading quickly in New Jersey warehouses, because owners and operators of these facilities are not implementing rigorous cleaning measures, health and safety protocols, and other measures. Read the full opinion-editorial in the Star-Ledger by Alberto Arroyo is co-manager of the Laundry, Distribution and Food Service Joint Board (LDFS Union), Workers United, SEIU and Debra Coyle McFadden is executive director of WEC.
Download a pdf of this announcement here. The Work Environment Council of New Jersey, Inc. (WEC) is a coalition of 70 labor, community, and environmental organizations advocating for safe, secure jobs and a healthy, sustainable environment. WEC seeks a full-time, experienced Campaign Organizer for the Jersey Renews effort based in our Trenton office. The position begins ASAP and no later than April 1 and is a 12-month full-time position with the option to renew if funding is secured. The person hired will organize and expand Jersey Renews’ dynamic, statewide grassroots advocacy and organizing efforts. The campaign focuses on making New Jersey a leader on state-based climate policy, including emissions reductions, increased clean energy production the creation of family-sustaining jobs, and reduced air pollution. The campaign organizer will work to build and maintain a broad-based, multi-sector alliance which includes partners in the climate/environmental, labor, community-based, faith, and other sectors and coordinate events, including meetings for the steering committee, the larger coalition, opinion leaders, legislative stakeholders, the media and others. Responsibilities The Campaign Organizer will be responsible for: Partner Recruitment and Outreach Maintain and expand diverse coalition of key organizations in strategic sectors, through in-person and telephone contact, participatory campaign planning meetings, [...]
Photo Credit: New Jersey Education Association It's uncertain how many school gymnasium floors in New Jersey are emitting a level of mercury vapor that's unsafe for the students and adults who come in contact with them daily. While new guidance from the state aims to get a better idea of the problem's reach and help schools determine whether their rubber-like gym floor is cause for concern and may need to be removed, a coalition of healthy-school advocates believes the update falls short in a number of areas. "Part of our recommendation has been and continues to be that they conduct a statewide survey of rubberized floors," said Heather Sorge, campaign organizer for Healthy Schools Now with the NJ Work Environment Council. "Our staff and our children, our students should not be in an environment where they're being exposed to mercury vapor." Read More
Press Release For Immediate Release: February 19, 2020 Contact: Heather L. Sorge, NJ Work Environment Council, Campaign Organizer for Healthy Schools Now 908/310-7874; email@example.com Debra Coyle McFadden, NJ Work Environment Council, Executive Director 609/707-1320; firstname.lastname@example.org New Jersey Department of Health Issues Updated Guidance on Mercury Found in School Floors DOH outlines measures to identify, test, manage and eliminate the hazard, but DOH misses the mark to enact the most protective standard for staff and students The New Jersey Department of Health (DOH) has released updated guidance for the evaluation and management of mercury-containing floors in NJ schools. Some rubber-like polyurethane floors may contain phenylmercuric acetate (PMA) that over time breaks down and releases mercury vapor indefinitely. Mercury vapor is odorless and colorless. These hazardous floors, which the New Jersey Education Association (NJEA), NJ Work Environment Council (WEC), and Healthy Schools Now (HSN) sounded the alarm about back in 2017, continue to be identified in schools across the state and the county. The floors have been installed since the 1960s and may even be hidden under other existing flooring. This flooring, and items that have been in contact with it, may emit harmful mercury vapor. Mercury vapor can damage the central nervous [...]
Today, the Governor delivered the State of the State address, highlighting change in New Jersey that WEC and many of our close partners have worked to enact over the past year. We were glad to hear the governor hold steady in his commitment to lead remediation in schools and in our homes, creating union jobs in the new clean energy economy with an emphasis on offshore wind, as well as his renewed commitment towards a millionaire’s tax and tax incentive program reform. We are also pleased to hear the administration will focus on releasing a strategic and capital plan for the future of New Jersey Transit as well as a commitment to examining runaway income inequality and wealth disparity. These efforts, both from the administration and advocates, have helped to begin transforming New Jersey into a safer, more equitable, and more sustainable environment for workers and working-class families. However, there is more work to be done. In 2020, the Work Environment Council and our members would like to see the administration, and the New Jersey legislature take action on: Improving transparency, accountability and safety related to trains carrying crude oil and other hazardous substances in New Jersey. Banning the use [...]
PES explosion on June 21, 2019. Photo credit to NBC Philadelphia. In South Jersey, this year we have a big reason to be grateful. In June, according to a recent report from the U.S. Chemical Safety Board (CSB), a million residents of South Jersey and Pennsylvania narrowly escaped exposure to hydrofluoric acid, a highly toxic gas, after a preventable series of explosions at the Philadelphia Energy Solutions refinery. When the explosion took place at 4 am, a control system operator immediately hit a switch to move the deadly hydrofluoric acid into a separate drum out of danger. Three other refinery workers fought flames to shut valves supplying fuel to the fire. The reward for these brave workers, all members of United Steelworkers Local 10-1? They lost their jobs, along with over 1,000 others. We’re lucky this disaster did not cause any loss of life. But it’s inexcusable that so many residents were put at risk and so many workers lost their livelihoods due to apparent negligence by company executives — who paid themselves $4.5 million in bonuses just two weeks after the incident. Read the full opinion-editorial piece in the South Jersey Times by Debra Coyle McFadden, WEC Executive Director here. [...]
The US Chemical Safety Board (CSB) released a factual update on the June 21 explosion and fire at the Philadelphia Energy Solutions (PES) Refinery in Philadelphia. The update notes that a pipe elbow, which had corroded to about half the thickness of a credit card, appears to have ruptured in the refinery’s alkylation unit, releasing process fluid that included over 5,000 pounds of hydrofluoric acid, or HF. The leaking process fluid formed a large ground-hugging vapor cloud which ignited, causing a massive fire and explosions. Five workers were injured. Thanks to the heroic actions of four employees, Barbara McHugh, Sal Diberardo, Dave Farrell and Sean McElhinney - members of the United Steelworkers (USW) - thisa massive explosion on June 21st at the Philadelphia Energy Solutions (PES) Refiner in Philadelphia did not turn into a deadly catastrophe. McHugh a control room activated the rapid Acid Deinventory system which dumped HF into a drum away from the fire while Farell, McElhinney and Diberado shut down valves to stop fuel to the fire under firey conditions. All four workers were honored at a ceremony on September 8 by the Philadelphia Firefighters. "McHugh's actions prevented a much larger and potentially catastrophic release of HF. [...]
This week marks the seventh anniversary of Hurricane Sandy. We all remember the fear and anxiety that gripped communities as we faced winds up to 90 miles an hour and sea levels 14 feet higher than normal. The storm claimed hundreds of lives and cost tens of billions of dollars in New Jersey, New York and up and down the East Coast. Health-related costs in New York and New Jersey alone were more than $3 billion. Is New Jersey ready for the next Sandy? The oil and chemical industries are important to the New Jersey economy. But we must not lose sight of the health and safety of workers in those industries, or the well-being of residents in surrounding communities. No one knows when the next storm might hit, when flood waters might rise, or when extreme heat might cause a disaster we can’t foresee. That’s why it’s more important than ever that industries that handle hazardous substances operate with full transparency and take steps to prepare for emergencies. Read the full Opinion-Editorial in The Star Ledger from Debra Coyle McFadden, WEC, Executive Director here.