This week,, we were joined by representatives from the Communication Workers of America, including Fran Ehret, CWA NJ National Staff Representative, Bill Bradley, CWA NJ Senior Campaign Lead, Jim McAsey, CWA NJ National Staff Representative, Keith Felder, Executive Vice President of CWA Local 1087, Trina Scordo, Executive Director of New Jersey Communities United, and Jon Worley, President of CWA Local 1084. The first two speakers discussed some of the educational and skills-building trainings the national health and safety committee has facilitated with over 350 rank-and-file H&S committee members from over 20 Locals in the public and private sectors in NJ. We also heard from local leaders about several successful collective efforts to win strong COVID health and safety measures in their workplaces. The message was clear: through education, organizing, and taking action, workers can improve the conditions in their workplaces. Resources from today’s webinar can be found below. More than 106 people attended this webinar. CWA NJ Presentation CWA New Jersey Health & Safety Toolkit
This week's webinar focused on Executive Order (EO) 192 which Governor Murphy signed on October 28 and went into effect on November 5. The EO, one of the strongest in the country, mandates a series of COVID-19 protections for workers in both public and private sector employment settings. There were more than 97 people who attended this webinar. This week we were joined by: Lou Kimmel, Executive Director of New Labor who spoke to the success of EO 192 after a six-month campaign by the Protect NJ Workers Coalition. The EO expands worker protections by requiring employers to establish social distancing protocols, provide masks and hand sanitizer at no cost to employees, develop a notification system for any known COVID workplace exposure, routinely clean and disinfect all high-touch areas in accordance with CDC and DOH guidelines, conduct health checks, and send home sick employees in compliance with applicable leave laws. A worker who still finds themselves in a situation where their employer is not following the EO and whose health and safety is at risk can file an EO Violation with the Department of Labor (DOL). The DOL and the Department of Health (DOH) will review the complaint, and if necessary, the business can be [...]
This week, we were joined by Peg Seminario, Former Director of Occupational Safety and Health for the AFL-CIO from 1990 until her retirement in 2019. Peg talked about the failure of federal OSHA to protect workers from not issuing an emergency infectious disease standard to not requiring employers to report workplace COVID cases and the general lack of inaction in the early days. She also noted that neither the federal or state governments have established data collection systems to track COVID cases in the workplace. Recommendations she made for OSHA included issuing an infectious disease emergency standard, using the Illness and Injury Reporting and Record Keeping rule to report COVID cases in the workplace, and, most importantly, aggressively enforcing standards and protections for workers that are already in place. She emphasized the important role of educating and empowering workers and how local communities can come together to demand change. More than 85 people attended this webinar. RESOURCES Here is the NJ DOL factsheet on COVID-19 Scenarios & Benefits Available Join WEC at COSHCON 2020 hosted by the National Council for Occupational Safety and Health December 1 - 3 and 8 - 10.
Today Ellie Barbarash, Health and Safety Coordinator for Health Professionals and Allied Employees, drew upon her experience and long track record of filing successful OSHA complaints. With changing CDC COVID guidance and no OSHA standard for infectious disease, Ellie identified five health and safety areas relevant to COVID exposure including respiratory protection, PPE, hazard communication, recordkeeping, and, depending on the circumstances, bloodborne pathogens. Ellie talked us through collecting worker exposure stories, collecting information, identifying witnesses, composing and submitting a complaint. Ellie acknowledged that an effective complaint is labor-intensive. However, doing your homework and filing a detailed complaint does significantly increase the likelihood of success -- Ellie herself has filed more than a dozen complaints during the pandemic that have resulted in a citation. More than 70 people attened this webinar. Additional resources: Ellie’s PowerPoint presentation HPAE’s Exposed and At-Risk report HuffPost article: “Workers tried to blow the whistle on COVID. Then people died.” See you on November 10th: Next Tuesday, the Saving Lives, Protecting Workers series will be taking a break. The following week, on November 10, we’ll be joined by Peg Seminaro, former Director of Occupational Safety and Health for the AFL-CIO.
October 20: How Prepared are We for a Second Wave? Lessons Learned and Challenges Still Ahead in Healthcare
This week we were joined by Debbie White, RN and President of HPAE, who recapped the horror, confusion, and trauma of the first wave of COVID for patients and healthcare workers, while outlining how we can best be prepared to avoid the same issues during a second wave of COVID. She emphasized the importance of worker voices in pandemic preparedness and how labor unions can lead in fighting to improve health and safety protocols to protect workers and patients. She also elaborated on bills the New Jersey legislature has passed, because of strong organizing from workers, including: Workers Compensation – Presumptive Eligibility S.2380/A.3999: A law to presume that frontline workers who contract the virus got it from workplace exposure for the purposes of employment benefits, including but not limited to workers' compensation benefits. COVID-19 Racial Data Tracker S.2357/A.3943: A law to require hospital to report COVID-19 demographic data, including the age, ethnicity, gender and race of persons in this State who have tested positive for COVID-19 or who have died from COVID-19, and the number of persons who attempt to get treatment for COVID-19, the number who are admitted and the number of persons who attempt to get tested and were [...]
This week we took a deeper dive into the use of hazardous chemicals in the workplace, specifically as they are used to combat the spread of COVID19. A rush to prevent viral spread has in some cases meant the use of unnecessary and even dangerous products that may harm our health. Today’s panelists discussed the OSHA Hazard Communication Standard revised in 2012, Safety Data Sheets (SDSs) (formerly MSDSs or Material Safety Data Sheets), exposure routes into the body, and safer products and practices when using chemicals in the workplace. We heard from WEC’s own Cecelia Gilligain Leto, Project Director on hazardous chemicals in the workplace, and on the ways in which thousands of workers are exposed to dangerous chemicals every day. Cecelia spoke on the OSHA HAZCOM standard, New Jersey’s Right to Know standard, and how to interpret and use Safety Data Sheets. We also heard from Allen Barkkume, MS, Industrial Hygiene Consultant with WEC on the DEP Advisory on Fogging Misting Systems that use disinfectants and sanitizers as a COVID-19 treatment (not permitted for human exposure), inadequate building ventilation systems, safer chemical selection, and noted that workers should not bring their own chemicals into the workplace. We had more than [...]
When we advance the rights of domestic workers, we advance the rights of all women and all workers,” Tatiana Bejar reminded us at yesterday’s webinar. Tatiana spoke as part of a panel of organizers and academics leading on multiple fronts in the fight for domestic workers’ rights -- before, during and after COVID-19. Many labor laws passed in the New Deal area explicitly excluded domestic workers. Today, protections that have been legally guaranteed in most occupational sectors for nearly a century are still denied to those who do perhaps the most essential work of all: raising our children, caring for our family members, and keeping our homes clean and healthy. Our panelists explained how, as COVID-19 shines a spotlight on the precarious conditions of domestic work, the current moment presents both new urgency and new opportunity to confront institutionalized racism and sexism and win long-overdue protections for this essential yet excluded workforce. Debra Lancaster and Elaine Zundl, Executive Director and Research Director at Rutgers’ Center for Women and Work and recent co-authors of Domestic Workers in New Jersey, kicked off our panel with a synopsis of the report’s findings. The report incorporates the direct experiences of over 400 domestic workers, compiled through a [...]
This week's webinar focused on the fundamentals of building ventilation, including important steps that can be taken in your workplace to reduce COVID-19 transmission. We were joined by David M. Newman, M.A., M.S. EOHS Associates LLC Environmental & Occupational Health & Safety Industrial Hygiene and a consultant to WEC. Dave stressed that while it is impossible to make buildings “safe” during the COVID crisis, we can reduce the risk of contracting the virus by utilizing a number of “tools” such as proper physical distancing, masking, PPE, cleaning and disinfecting, contact tracing, and adequate ventilation. There were more than 127 participants on this webinar. Here is Dave's slide presentation.
This summer, we’ve seen an unprecedented season of storms that has already barrelled through the full alphabet. We’ve also had to deal with these disasters in the midst of another, prolonged crisis -- the COVID-19 pandemic. Two experts joined us today to advise on what climate impacts New Jersey is experiencing and should anticipate, as well as to offer tips on how we can prepare our families and communities for extreme weather events while staying as safe as possible from COVID. There were more than 60 participants on this webinar. Dr. Anthony Broccoli, Co-Director of the Rutgers Climate Institute, offered an overview of the main weather changes triggered by climate change and which of these trends New Jersey should prepare for. Dr. Broccoli highlighted increased and more frequent flooding as a particular risk for our state, as well as extreme heat and cold, heavy rain and dry spells (which can quickly impact the state’s water supply), and potentially, more frequent tornadoes. More research is needed on the effects of climate change on hurricanes, which are becoming more severe, but not necessarily projected to increase in frequency for NJ. Click here for powerpoint presentation. This context helped to frame Keith Adams’ presentation on [...]
This week we were joined by: Peter Dooley (MS, CIH, CSP) Safety and Health Senior Project Coordinator for National COSH and President of LaborSafe, who spoke about the importance of health and safety organizing, and its connection to broader public health issues, in building worker power. He went on to discuss national COSH’s historical work around these issues through community RIght to Know campaigns around the country. George T. DeFerdinando, Jr., MD, MPH, FACP, Chair of the Princeton NJ Board of Health and on the Executive Committee of the New Jersey Local Boards of Health Association, who spoke about some of the challenges workers face in regards to COVID19 and air quality, and the importance of enforcement in regards to state action, and Rosanna Rodriguez, (Dominican, Latina, Female) Laundry Workers Center (LWC) founder, organizer, and key developer in LWC’s workplace justice and policy programs, training institute, and women’s leadership committee, who spoke about the LWC’s efforts to organize workers in the face of the COVID19 crisis. All three presenters emphasized the importance of worker organizing and power, and issues of health and safety, in light of the COVID19 crisis, as a key area of solidarity among workers from different political backgrounds. There [...]