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The New Jersey Work Environment Council (WEC) is an alliance of labor, community, and environmental organizations working together for safe, secure jobs, and a healthy, sustainable environment.

April 27: Workers Memorial Day – The toll of Covid-19

This week, in our last regularly scheduled episode, we observed Workers’ Memorial Day and the deadly toll that COVID19 took on workers this past year. We heard from co-workers, community leaders and labor leaders who paid tribute to fallen workers and their families. We were joined by: Yadhira Alvarez, Chief of Staff for the Laundry, Distribution and Food Service Joint Board (LDFS Union), Workers United, SEIU Lou Kimmel, Executive Director, New Labor Tiffany Beavers-Busby, RN in the medical intensive care unit at Jersey Shore University Medical Center in Neptune, NJ and a Vice President of HPAE Local 5058 Our guests spoke to the horrible toll COVID19 took on their communities and workplaces, the stunning failure of our federal government in responding to the crisis at the behest of hospital lobbyists seeking to cut their losses and accountability, the importance of belonging to a labor union in times of crisis for workers, and why we must continue to march and observe Worker Memorial Day until we can go an entire year without a single worker death. Tiffany shared this important perspective with us: "The inescapable fact is that our employers needlessly exposed Frontline Healthcare Workers to the COVID-19 virus, lagged in informing [...]

By |2021-04-28T15:59:52-04:00April 28th, 2021|Covid-19, Covid-19 Webinars|Comments Off on April 27: Workers Memorial Day – The toll of Covid-19

April 20: COVID-19 and the New Housing Crisis

Today’s webinar explored how COVID-19 has worsened a pre-existing housing crisis in New Jersey, what protections exist for New Jerseyans struggling to pay rent, and what policies we need to prevent post-pandemic evictions and guarantee secure, affordable housing for all. Eric Seymour, Assistant Professor of Urban Planning and Policy Development at Rutgers’ Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy, shared context on the relationship between income loss throughout the pandemic -- particularly severe for those employed in the service sector -- and inability to make rental payments. Recent research showed that New Jersey tenants indicated the highest rate nationwide of “no confidence” in their ability to pay monthly rent -- a result of both COVID-19 and the long-term impact of recession-era foreclosures and prohibitively high housing costs. Prof. Seymour’s research in other states indicates that New Jersey is at risk of a wave of evictions following the end of the current eviction moratorium, which could be exacerbated by the entry of more large, private equity-backed landlords into the state housing market. See Prof. Seymour’s presentation for further information informed by his research, including a set of graphs and visuals illustrating the relationship between COVID-19, race and class, and recent developments in housing insecurity. Staci [...]

By |2021-04-22T16:40:34-04:00April 21st, 2021|Covid-19, Covid-19 Webinars|Comments Off on April 20: COVID-19 and the New Housing Crisis

Methylene Chloride Deaths Highlight Need for EPA Action

A peer-reviewed study published in JAMA Internal Medicine finds that 85 people have been killed by the dangerous solvent methylene chloride in the last 4 decades. The study notes that even these numbers don’t capture the full scope of harm, because many deaths likely are unreported, and deaths likely to have occurred due to exposure may not have identified methylene chloride as the cause of death. The study assessed verified deaths from acute exposures but does not capture the harms, including cancer, caused by chronic exposure. Read more: https://www.nrdc.org/experts/daniel-rosenberg/methylene-chloride-deaths-highlight-need-epa-action

By |2021-04-29T17:02:01-04:00April 20th, 2021|WEC in the News|Comments Off on Methylene Chloride Deaths Highlight Need for EPA Action

March 30: COVID, Immigration Status, and Hazardous Working Conditions

This week's webinar focused on how COVID-19 has impacted undocumented workers, the risks that undocumented workers face when they organize against unsafe conditions, and how workers are fighting back despite threats of retaliation. More than 40 people attended this webinar. Vineeta Kapahi, Policy Analyst with NJ Policy Perspective, offered context for why COVID-19 has hit undocumented New Jerseyans particularly hard. Undocumented workers make up a large portion of the workforce in industries deemed essential during the pandemic, and many have been forced to work in unsafe conditions, particularly in sectors already governed by poor or poorly enforced labor protections such as farmwork and warehousing. High rates of workplace exposure, as well as lack of access to health insurance and paid sick leave, have caused disproportionately high COVID-19 death rates in undocumented communities. Undocumented workers are also disproportionately represented in sectors that have experienced the most job losses due to COVID-19, yet they have been excluded from many forms of relief, including CARES Act payments. Immigration enforcement has also exacerbated the dangers of COVID-19 for many undocumented people. All four of New Jersey’s detention facilities have had COVID-19 outbreaks, meaning detention by ICE can be a death sentence. Enforcement also allows for employer [...]

By |2021-03-31T16:45:33-04:00March 31st, 2021|Covid-19, Covid-19 Webinars|Comments Off on March 30: COVID, Immigration Status, and Hazardous Working Conditions

Offshore wind seen as energy and jobs opportunity for New Jersey

Offshore wind has the potential to produce about 90% of the electricity the United States is projected to need in 2050 even if fossil fuels were fully phased out, with New Jersey in position to be among the leading states, according to a new report issued Thursday. Not all of that technical potential for offshore wind energy will be developed – nor should it, says the report from the Frontier Group and Environment America Research & Policy Center. Read More: Offshore wind an energy and jobs opportunity for New Jersey | https://nj1015.com/offshore-wind-seen-as-energy-and-jobs-opportunity-for-new-jersey/?utm_source=tsmclip&utm_medium=referral

By |2021-03-23T14:44:53-04:00March 21st, 2021|Highlights, WEC in the News|Comments Off on Offshore wind seen as energy and jobs opportunity for New Jersey

March 16: COVID-19 and Paid Time Off for New Jersey Workers

We were joined by guests from the Center for Women and Work at Rutgers SMLR and the New Jersey Citizen Action Education Fund to learn about how paid time off intersects with community health and well-being - and worker health and safety - and where and when the NJ policies can be applied. Debra Lancaster from CWW summarized the body of research on the benefits of paid family and sick leave, including addressing gender and racial disparities as well as improving health outcomes and work-family balance. Yarrow Willman-Cole from NJ Citizen Action gave an overview of the overlapping web of job protections available at the national and state level and income replacement programs available at just the state level. They outlined current state and federal laws that make most employees in New Jersey eligible for Temporary Disability and Family Leave insurance (TDI/FLI), and discussed the positive impact these protections have for everyone, but especially for marginalized communities and women highlighting among other points: Longer leaves among new mothers is associated with fewer depressive symptoms When new fathers take paid leave, they are more likely to be engaged caretakers Lower odds of infants being re-hospitalized when paid leave is available to parents Decreased participation [...]

By |2021-03-23T14:10:32-04:00March 17th, 2021|Covid-19, Covid-19 Webinars|Comments Off on March 16: COVID-19 and Paid Time Off for New Jersey Workers

March 9: One Year of the COVID-19 Series – Lessons Learned & Looking Forward

  This week Todd Vachon, Rutgers, Learn, Debra Coyle McFadden, Executive Director, WEC, and Cecelia Gilligan Leto, Program Director, WEC reflected on the 42nd webinar episodes they have developed and hosted over the past year. Through those webinars, they were joined by 97 guest speakers and more than 4,000 attendees tuned in.Speakers included: Barry Kushnir, President, IFPTE Local 194 who spoke about how terrifying the start of the pandemic was because of all of the unknowns. Barry stated that “the webinars provided a hub of free resources which was very helpful.” Kushiner also expressed how wonderful it was to be able to collaborate with other organizations on this issue. Marcia Kleinz, UniServ Field Rep. Region 29, NJEA, works with higher education locals and spoke about how she was able to use the tools and ideas from the weekly webinars to support solidarity among members. She felt that “regardless of the topic, there was something I could take back.” Moving forward, Marcia said that she feels that stronger health and safety language is needed in contracts and that the information she received from the webinars will help her “advocate better for members and to negotiate for it.” Nancy Miller, Membership Assistant Program Coordinator, UFCW Local 1262 provides [...]

By |2021-03-23T14:19:46-04:00March 10th, 2021|Covid-19, Covid-19 Webinars|Comments Off on March 9: One Year of the COVID-19 Series – Lessons Learned & Looking Forward

March 2: Collective Bargaining & COVID-19

This week, two experienced labor representatives and collective bargainers -- Peter Dooley, Industrial Hygienist with National COSH, and Jim Howe, President of Safety Solutions -- facilitated an interactive workshop on best practices for collective bargaining in the age of COVID-19. Peter and Jim have compiled a shared Google Doc with collaborative notes from our session and a comprehensive set of instructional resources and sample documents that cover pre-planning and information gathering ahead of the bargaining process, writing effective proposals, and bargaining itself. Participants are invited to reach out to Peter (peter@nationalcosh.org) or Jim (mhowe55@gmail.com) to request editable copies of any of these documents for use in their own workplaces. Some take-away points from Peter and Jim: It’s important to have worker engagement in the collective bargaining process. The more your demands are based on what workers want, the more powerful they will be to management. There are tremendous opportunities to gain improvements in Health and Safety issues through bargaining with employers. It’s important for H&S representatives to help the union or worker organizations recognize and realize these improvements. The bargaining process in health and safety should be happening all the time with the employer. The most important part of the process is to have any [...]

By |2021-03-03T15:08:55-05:00March 3rd, 2021|Covid-19, Covid-19 Webinars|Comments Off on March 2: Collective Bargaining & COVID-19

Governor Murphy Announces Members of the New Jersey Council on the Green Economy

Statement from Debra Coyle McFadden on being appointed to NJ Council on the Green Economy I am honored to be selected to serve on the Green Economy Council and want to thank Governor Murphy for this opportunity. I look forward to working with the other members of the Council to ensure NJ's green economy works for workers.  As we look for opportunities to maximize clean energy jobs, we need to make sure these are family-sustaining, union jobs with strong worker protections -- and that they are accessible to marginalized workers who have traditionally been left behind. This is a once in a generation opportunity and I am ready to get to work. Read Governor Murphy's announcement here.

By |2021-02-24T16:43:11-05:00February 24th, 2021|Highlights, Press Releases, WEC in the News|Comments Off on Governor Murphy Announces Members of the New Jersey Council on the Green Economy

February 23: COVID-19 Vaccines and the NJ Vaccine Distribution Program

Today we heard from two public health experts helping to guide the planning and execution of New Jersey’s COVID-19 vaccination program. Dr. Eddy Bresnitz, Medical Advisor to the NJ Department of Health and chair of the state’s Professional Advisory Committee, began by summarizing what New Jerseyans need to know about the two available FDA authorized vaccines (Pfizer and Moderna mRNA), including the following: Both vaccines are approximately 95% effective. Adolescents ages 16 and 17 are eligible to receive the Pfizer Biotech vaccine. It is not yet known how well the vaccine prevents COVID-19 transmission, so those vaccinated should still mask, social distance and take other measures to protect others. The vaccine’s durability is not yet known - it may require booster doses. The vaccine may be administered to people with underlying conditions who have no contraindications to vaccination. Those who are immunocompromised or have autoimmune disorders should consult with their doctor before vaccination. Dr. Bresnitz also provided an update on New Jersey’s tiers for priority vaccination: in Tier 1A, which includes those working or volunteering in healthcare with potential for direct or indirect exposure and all residents and workers of long-term care facilities, “everyone who wants a vaccine has gotten one.” Those now [...]

By |2021-02-24T16:25:59-05:00February 24th, 2021|Covid-19, Covid-19 Webinars|Comments Off on February 23: COVID-19 Vaccines and the NJ Vaccine Distribution Program
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