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 [...]
Child labor laws have been passed, a minimum wage has been set, overtime laws are in place, and there is a federal agency dedicated to occupational safety and health, OSHA. “So, what do we need unions for?” This is a common refrain uttered by opponents of unions as well as many workers who have never belonged to a union. Welcome to the pandemic terrordome. Since the arrival of COVID-19 earlier this year, the need for unions has become more apparent than ever. From the very start, essential workers in retail, warehouses, assembly lines, nursing homes, and hospitals were some of the most vulnerable, typically working with woefully inadequate safety protections and often at wages that do not begin to reflect the value their work adds to society each day. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has been missing in action, refusing to issue an emergency infectious disease standard for healthcare workers. The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued inadequate guidance, which employers could choose to follow but could also ignore since it is not enforceable. The voluntary nature of this guidance has created an uneven playing field, pitting good employers who do the right thing against bad actors who ignore [...]
September 1: Labor Day Celebration & The Importance of Worker’s Voice During the Age of COVID, with Special Guest Elise Bryant
This week we held a Labor Day discussion about the role of union and worker voices in ensuring workplace safety. We were joined by acclaimed labor activist Elise Bryant, Executive Director of the Labor Heritage Foundation and President of the Coalition of Labor Union Women. Elise shared that one in three jobs categorized as essential are held by women. She spoke about how women have held multiple rolls during the pandemic and shared that Black and Latina women have suffered the largest job loss and biggest pay gap. Sadly, domestic abuse has also skyrocketed during this time as well. Ms. Bryant stated that this is the time for the women’s communities to come alive, engage and to organize. Many resources can be found at the Coalition of Labor Union Women website. Elise shared with us, “this is a time where people are recognizing that we are stronger collectively than we are individually”. Please visit the links that Elyse shared during the webinar: Coalition of Labor Union Women and Labor Heritage Foundation. We were also joined by Columbia University economist Suresh Naidu, co-author of the report Co-Author of Understanding the COVID-19 Workplace: Evidence From a Survey of Essential Workers which looked at a national sample of essential workers in order to paint a clearer picture of how workers in frontline occupations [...]
Los Angeles - “My co-workers are getting sick and we know this disease can be fatal,” said Sofia, a pseudonym for a worker at a Case Farms poultry plant. “We want to do our jobs and help feed people during this crisis. But we need to know our employer is listening to us and doing everything possible to make our workplace safe. Right now, that is not happening.” To ensure safety for Sofia – and millions of others who are still working or will return to work in the coming weeks and months – the Work Environment Council of NJ (WEC) and its national association, the National Council for Occupational Safety and Health (National COSH), jointly released a new report today: “A Safe and Just Return to Work.” The United States is far from being ready to open for business without putting not only workers but entire communities at grave risk of illness and death. The document, with comprehensive guidelines for workplace safety, worker participation and fair compensation for sick, injured and at-risk workers, was prepared by experts convened by National COSH. Writers and contributors include certified industrial hygienists, academicians, attorneys, physicians and leaders of non-governmental and nonprofit organizations. “In [...]
Stop Exposing Our School Staff and Kids to Toxic Mercury Floors emitting mercury vapor have now been found in at least 25 school districts in New Jersey. Schools have been utilizing rubber-like polyurethane floors since the 1960s. Some of these floors, installed as late as 2006, contain phenyl mercuric acetate (PMA), a catalyst which releases odorless, colorless mercury vapor. Mercury vapor can damage the central nervous system, kidneys, lungs, eyes, and skin and is especially toxic to children and fetuses.
“We are pleased that steps are being taken to address students’ safety in regard to heat stress which is often experienced during school sports,” said Heather Sorge, Campaign Organizer for Healthy Schools Now, NJ Work Environment Council. “As New Jersey continues to suffer the impact of climate change, having policies and emergency plans to protect our student-athletes in extreme temperatures is critical to their health and well being. These bills highlight the importance of emergency preparedness, something the NJ Work Environment Council strongly promotes.” Read the full piece at My Central Jersey here.
As worries over lead in drinking water continue to dominate, Gov. Phil Murphy announced a multi-pronged program Monday to bolster the state’s response to specifically addressing the existence of lead in public schools’ water. The steps announced include: Increasing inspections of school drinking water from the current once every six years to every three years; enhancing enforcement against schools that do not comply with testing protocols; and improving the state’s and the schools’ reporting of water results, including a central database kept by the state. “It’s a whole-of-New-Jersey problem, but it’s one we are here today to strengthen our efforts to overcome,” Murphy said in announcing the steps with Rep. Josh Gottheimer in Bergenfield. Read the full story at NJ Spotlight.
New Jersey Policy Perspective issues new report on EDA as progressive groups announce tax incentive reform agenda
New Jersey advocates, community organizations and workers collectively demanded today that the Legislature pass meaningful reforms to the state’s economic incentives program following the release of a new report that found that New Jersey saw little return on its investments under the failed Economic Opportunity Act of 2013, which expired in June. A broad-based coalition including New Jersey Working Families, New Jersey Citizen Action, New Jersey Policy Perspective, New Jersey Work Environment Council, Workers United and 32BJ SEIU called on Trenton to adopt a series of six evidence-based reforms to its tax incentive program to ensure that future corporate subsidies benefit underserved communities and working families. “Not a dime of tax incentives should be given to any business that cannot, at the very least, guarantee the bodily safety of its employees,” said Brandon Castro of the New Jersey Work Environment Council. “Companies receiving incentives must provide affordable healthcare and assure safe and healthy working conditions. The EDA should also require onsite consultation with the NJ Department of Labor and Workforce Development for any company in their first year of receiving awards.” Read the full story at InsiderNJ.com.
Asw. Pinkin and Asm. Karabinchak Celebrate “National Drive Electric Week” in Edison with Electric Car Show of the Future
Edison, NJ — Assemblywoman Nancy Pinkin and Assemblyman Robert Karabinchak joined with Environment New Jersey Research & Policy Center and Jersey Renews to take electric car — and the promise of a zero carbon transportation future for New Jersey — for a test drive during National Drive Electric Week. Edison residents tried out cars like the Audi eTron, Chevy Volt, and Tesla Model 3 at Lake Papaianni Park, after local leaders and environmental advocates called for policies that ease the transition to cleaner, greener, electrified vehicle travel in New Jersey. “Electric vehicles are here now, and New Jersey needs to do more to make it easier to plug in,” said Doug O’Malley, director of Environment New Jersey Research & Policy Center. “Electrifying our transportation sector is one of the most critical things we can do to fight air pollution and climate change. By taking steps to improve our EV infrastructure and accelerate the transition to electric transportation, New Jersey can create a roadmap for other states to follow. But we need to provide more resources and funding to communities like Edison to install more EV charging stations around the state.” Climate change is a major threat to New Jersey, with more [...]