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 [...]
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 [...]
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 [...]
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 (email@example.com) or Jim (firstname.lastname@example.org) 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 [...]
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 [...]
This week, were were joined by Marcy Gelb, Co-Director, National COSH and Al Vega, Director Policy and Programs and Vice Chair of National COSH Board of Directors, who discussed the National Council for Occupational Safety and Health’s (National COSH) eight-point National Agenda for Worker Safety and Health, developed with more than 100 labor and community-based organizations. Marcy outlined the devastating increase in mortality COVID-19 has brought to workers, and the enormous disparity in mortality between white and black and latino workers. She emphasized that COVID-19 is not just a workplace hazard, but a hazard for our entire community. It is critical that workers are protected from not just COVID-19, but from all hazards and retaliation from employers for speaking up about them. Al elaborated on conditions for workers on the ground, and stressed the importance of setting a baseline of safety at the federal level, instead of leaving it up to state governments to decide whether or not workers have a right to be safe in their workplace. You can learn more about the national agenda here. More than 75 people attended this webinar. NOTE: There is no webinar next week. We will be back on Tuesday, February 23 @ 10am.
This week we heard from two transit union representatives - Corey Gallman, Recording Secretary of Amalgamated Transit Union’s NJ State Council, and Jerome Johnson, General Chairman/President of Smart-TD Local 60, representing New Jersey bus and train workers respectively at NJ Transit. ATU and SMART joined us on the series last summer to discuss the impact of COVID-19 on their members. Today, both unions came back to share updates on PPE, cleaning and other safety measures, on-the-job violence that transit workers face. We were also joined by Janna Chernetz, Tri-State Transportation Campaign’s Deputy Director and Director of New Jersey Policy. Janna shared statistics revealing the disparity in returning ridership between inter-city and commuter buses and trains during the pandemic -- proving that while many white-collar workers are able to work remotely, large numbers of essential workers still depend on public transit to get to work. Janna spoke about the Bus Rider Bill of Rights as a vehicle for transit equity - a document now proposed as NJ state legislation that declares the rights of all riders to affordable, accessible, reliable and safe bus service. More than 78 people attended this webinar. Janna also spoke about Transit Equity Day - a national day of action coming up this Thursday, February [...]
January 26: Join Dr. Tina Tan, DOH Asst. Commissioner and State Epidemiologist as we discuss COVID-19
This week we were joined by Dr. Tina Tan, MD, MPH, State Epidemiologist and Assistant Commissioner of the Division of Epidemiology, Environmental and Occupational Health at the New Jersey Department of Health, where she oversees program areas in general communicable disease surveillance and control, immunizations, environmental and occupational health, and cancer epidemiology. Dr. Tan traced the origin of the virus outbreak in the US and NJ, contextualizing the viruses history thus far and challenges in tracing and managing the outbreak for both the state and the nation. She covered our shift from a state of emergency, to the cancellation of mass gatherings and school closures, to the stay at home order. She also spoke about our cultural shift towards social distancing and using masks and hygiene to combat the virus. She detailed the strain the first wave had on our healthcare systems, discussed the second wave and its peaks, and discussed challenges for local agencies in regards to contact tracing and capacity. More than 165 people attended this presentation. Here is Dr. Tan's presentation.
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/