This week we covered the effect of COVID-19 on long-term care facilities, which have been ground zero for viral outbreaks. As the pandemic has ravaged senior communities across the country and frontline healthcare workers have faced PPE shortages, the federal government has offered weak and inconsistent aid to beleaguered nursing homes. To discuss the ongoing impact of the pandemic on long-term care, we were joined by Matte Kane, Union Representative, UFCW 152, Kendra Bass, LPN, United Steelworkers Local 406 Recording Secretary, and Phillis Shivers, District 1199J, National Union of Hospital and Health Care Employees, AFSCME, AFL-CIO. Our guests spoke to the unique workplace risks that long term care facility workers face, as well as to the challenges of organizing and ensuring that workers’ voices are heard in a world where face-to-face connection is limited. The conversation ended with a productive exploration of ways we can overcome collective barriers to organizing in the COVID era. Resource: Center for Disease Control: How COVID-19 Spreads
In our first webinar of the new year, we welcomed Betsy Marshall, PhD, Epidemiologist, Rutgers School of Public Health, Paschal Nwako, PhD, MPH, County Health Officer & Public Health Coordinator, Camden County NJ, and Lindsay Berg and Alisa Fatima, Contact Tracer Supervisors, Mercer County NJ. All four of our guests discussed the importance of identifying, monitoring, and supporting individuals who may have been exposed to a person with COVID-19, and of the specific regional challenges faced by the public health community in Camden and Mercer county, respectively. More than 110 people attended this webinar. Here is the link to the New Jersey Community Contact Tracing Corps. https://www.publicconsultinggroup.com/new-jersey-state-contact-tracing-initiative/
Today we heard from the Governor’s Office and state agencies on NJ’s near and long-term plans to slow the spread of COVID-19, including the rollout of a newly available vaccine and the implementation of worker protection Executive Order 192. Deborah Cornavaca, Deputy Chief of Staff at Governor Murphy's Office, outlined the state’s vaccination plan for the coming months, including a tier system to prioritize frontline workers and immunization record-keeping to track both stages of vaccination. She emphasized the importance of community outreach about the vaccine and working with community leaders. Jill Gutierrez, Director of Strategic Planning and Outreach for the New Jersey Department of Labor & Workforce Development and Justin Baker, who serves as Chief of Occupational Health at the NJ Department of Labor summarized the protections and benefits under Executive Order 192, effective November 5th, to expand COVID protections for workers. Key components require employers to provide face masks free of charge to employees, conduct daily health checks, promptly notify employees of any known exposure at the workplace, and routine cleaning and disinfecting. The EO also includes two important provisions: enforcement and training. A COVID complaint form can be found here. Justin spoke about the process to file a complaint, highlighting that all complaints are [...]
This week we were joined by Les Leopold, co-founder and Executive Director of the Labor Institute. Les, who is the author of several books on the financialization of the US Economy, including Runaway Inequality: An Activist’s Guide to Economic Justice, spoke to the role the ultra-rich, hedge funds and other financial institutions have played in exacerbating COVID-19’s impact, specifically on communities of color and poor communities. He covered the economic mechanisms these institutions use to extract wealth from our medical infrastructure, resulting in the severe lack of preparedness for public health disasters we are currently experiencing, and extreme inequalities in access to safe jobs, preventative care, and adequate treatment. Les emphasized organizing across silos, talking to people in our workplaces who we don’t agree with about our shared interest in fixing these inequities, and building a mass, popular movement for economic justice. If you are interested in workshops based on Les’ materials, campaigning around economic policies, like public banking, that can reduce runaway inequality, or in organizing campaigns that break down issue silos in your community, please reach out to WEC’s Public Need Program organizer Brandon Castro @ firstname.lastname@example.org. Please join us next Tuesday, December 15 @ 10am for Saving lives, [...]
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 [...]