The Work Environment Council of New Jersey, Inc. (WEC) is a coalition of 70 labor, community, and environmental organizations advocating for safe, secure jobs and a healthy, sustainable environment. WEC seeks an experienced Policy and Advocacy Director. The position begins ASAP and is a 12-month full-time position with an option to extend. The deadline to apply is October 21 and resumes will be reviewed on a rolling basis. The Policy and Advocacy Director will be primarily responsible for policy development and senior level oversight to ensure high-quality organizational strategic and operational objectives are achieved in the WEC policy portfolio. A majority of the time will be spent on climate and clean energy work with partners in Jersey Renews, a statewide coalition of labor, environmental and community partners that WEC coordinates working on state-based climate policy, including emissions reductions, increased clean energy production, family-sustaining green jobs, reduced air pollution and a more sustainable transportation system. The Policy and Advocacy Director will supervise campaign organizers and work with coalition partners to develop strategic policy goals to ensure success and coordinate all of the organization’s legislative and regulatory outreach and direct advocacy. The Policy and Advocacy Director will report directly to the Executive [...]
When Abraham Lincoln School in Garfield reopens in September, students will cram into a building constructed 50 years after the 16th president was assassinated and is showing its age: A sagging roof, water damage from leaks in the mortar, no air- conditioning. It gets no better in some schools in Paterson, where the local teachers union has reported mold, leaky ceilings and rodents. But they do have running drinking water, which is more than can be said of at least half the schools in Jersey City. Those schools are examples among dozens throughout New Jersey’s 31 so-called Schools Development Authority (SDA) districts that will fully reopen this school year in “deplorable conditions,” as the Education Law Center put it in legal filings. Hot, overcrowded, poorly ventilated classrooms have become a way of life for students and teachers in these districts that have been so down-at-the-heels that the Supreme Court ruled decades ago that the state is responsible for school repairs and replacement so students can get a “thorough and efficient” education. Read the full story here.
As the new school year starts, the National Coalition for Healthier Schools, coordinated by Healthy Schools Network, is calling for critical and immediate actions and $75 Million in funding to rapidly expand EPA’s capacity to mount education and technical assistance campaigns on clean indoor environments in the nation’s schools: Clean Air, Clean Water, and Clean and Healthy Products. “Clean air in every school should be a national priority for all k-12 schools and childcare facilities,” says Claire Barnett, executive of the Healthy Schools Network. “No child should suffer a full day of polluted and or cold and flu virus-filled indoor air. Teaching suffers; learning suffers; absences and asthma rise. Children are denied the future they and the nation need.”... “Students and staff deserve to learn and teach in healthy schools with adequate ventilation systems. Proper ventilation is important when it comes to good indoor air quality and reducing the spread of COVID-19. Funding must be authorized at the state and federal level to help achieve these goals,” said Heather L. Sorge, NJ Work Environment Council. Read the full article here.
"Heather Sorge is an organizer for Healthy Schools Now, a coalition under the umbrella of the New Jersey Work Environment Council. She said her organization has been advocating for stricter standards for years. The issue, she said, is a lack of awareness. “We’ve advocated for a statewide survey of where these floors are, testing to see if there is a mercury component and then funding on a statewide level because the districts shouldn’t be responsible for these costly repairs,” Sorge said. Not all of the floors are problematic, but it's impossible to know without testing. Mercury exposure can harm the brain and central nervous system. The risk is higher for young children, whose neurological systems are still developing, and who are lower to the ground where vapors linger. Even short-term exposure can cause a cough or sore throat, headaches and chest pain." It's critical that we identify these floors and have them tested and remediated. Read the entire article here.
Employers fined for COVID-19 safety lapses as advocates see rising numbers of workplace deaths Cecelia Gilligan Leto often fields calls from workers concerned for their safety while they do their jobs. As project director for the New Jersey Work Environment Council, Leto has trained people in workplace safety for years. So, when the novel coronavirus began to spread last year, workers in health care, retail, warehouses and in other occupations turned to her. “You had this invisible thing come into the workplace; people just didn’t know what to do with it, and there was a lot to learn in the beginning,’’ she said. “COVID was a new hazard, and in February and March those calls kept coming in and the people were fearful, and they were scared.” Read more here.
Press Statement: Jersey Renews Thanks Sen. Loretta Weinberg for Supporting Full Transit Funding & An End to Clean Energy Fund Raids
Sen. Loretta Weinberg issued the below statement in support of full funding for New Jersey Transit and an end to Clean Energy Fund raids. (The full statement can also be viewed here.) The full FY22 state budget must be finalized and approved by the end of this month. Senate Majority Leader’s Weinberg’s statement reads: “NJ Transit has been a perennial budget issue thanks to the degradation of service suffered during the Christie Administration. Adequate funding is necessary to maintain service and to make much-needed capital improvements. “I am concerned, though, that the Governor’s proposed budget includes a $273 million reduction in the state’s subsidy to NJ Transit, while leaving in place longstanding transfers from the Clean Energy Fund and NJ Transit’s capital budget. Read the full press release here.
Testimony Given to the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration on Whistleblower Protections
Testimony Given by Debra Coyle McFadden to the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration Whistleblower Stakeholder Meeting on May 19, 2021 Thank you for the opportunity to testify. My name is Debra Coyle McFadden, and I am the Executive Director of the NJ Work Environment Council. We are a coalition of 70 labor, community, and environmental organizations, as well as many individuals advocating for safe, secure jobs and a health sustainable environment. The NJ Work Environment Council is also an affiliate of the National Council for Occupational Safety and Health Network as well as the national coalition to Prevent Chemical Disasters. Let me be direct. If workers are not truly protected when participating in safety or health activities, or reporting workplace hazards to their employer, they won’t do it. The consequence of this will be that more workers will die in workplace fatalities or become sick or injured on the jobs. The impact of not reporting health and safety hazards may also go well beyond the workplace. For example, if a refinery or chemical worker doesn’t feel protected from retaliation, they might not report a serious health and safety hazard that if reported and corrected could prevent a toxic catastrophe. [...]
We know that student debt impacts our current members, our future members and our students. We also know that student debt disproportionately affects people of color, adding it to the long list of social justice issues that must be addressed. That’s why the New Jersey Education Association (NJEA) is taking action. NJEA, with partners from the Work Environment Council (WEC), New Jersey Communities United (NJCU), New Jersey Citizen Action (NJCA), NJ Higher Education Student Assistance Authority (HESAA), and NJ Department of Education (NJDOE) have formed the “New Jersey Student Loan Debt Alliance” which seeks to tackle the issue of student debt and college affordability. Read the whole opinion article here.
We are proud to share the impact of WEC’s work in 2020. We did this work together with our members which includes, labor, community organizations, environmental organizations, and individuals. Faced with a public health crisis, WEC went to work to educate and advocate for COVID protections for workers and our communities. The COVID crisis made it clear that worker health is public health. Even amid a pandemic, together with you, we made significant progress in our other areas of work from labor friendly climate policy to public need and healthy schools.
This month we kicked off WEC’s demand for Public Banking for New Jersey in a webinar that centered the voices of organizers, activists, workers and experts. We heard from Trina Scordo, executive director at New Jersey Communities United, Beverly Brown Ruggia, Financial Justice organizer at New Jersey Communities United, and Julie Plotkin, Associate Director of Education and Evaluation Research at the New Jersey Education Association (NJEA) on why a democratically operated, publicly owned bank committed to investing in the public good is critical for their members’ success. We also heard directly from workers on the ground, including: Nikki Baker, an educational professional in the Paterson public school district, who spoke to unacceptable conditions in the district’s school buildings, and the need for serious capital investment to fix these issues, including severe mold problems, and HVAC and air circulation which makes the building particularly dangerous during the COVID pandemic. Ivan Wei, who spoke to his family's struggles as small business owners of color in New Jersey, including consistent neglect or exploitation from big banks, making it near impossible to open an account or gain access to a non-predatory line of credit. Ivan highlighted that community banks and credit unions, the kind a [...]