Reality check: No one is safe from the ravages of COVID 19. After all, nurses, warehouse workers and celebrities like Tom Hanks alike are getting sick. Actually, if you work for low pay, are a person of color, or live in a crowded urban area, you’re more likely to get sick and less likely to be able to get the treatment you need. It’s no coincidence these people are the most vulnerable. The air is worse to begin with in struggling communities, causing pre-existing conditions that heighten susceptibility to the virus. No, this isn’t a “we’re all in this together moment.” Unfortunately, the coronavirus exposes our unpreparedness for a health disaster, and longstanding fault lines between the haves and have nots. Read the full opinion-editorial from the Satr-Ledger by Debra Coyle McFadden, executive director, WEC.
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 [...]
NORTH PLAINFIELD-- The North Plainfield Education Association (NPEA) plans to turn out in force this Wednesday, May 13, at the District’s virtual mercury town hall meeting to urge the Board of Education to take immediate action. Since 2018, the NPEA has been fighting for the removal of mercury-laden gym floors in two district schools. With the help of industrial hygienists from the Work Environment Council (WEC) and the New Jersey Education Association’s (NJEA) Healthy Schools Now network, the NPEA discovered the middle school gym floor had mercury levels high enough to require removal as hazardous waste. Read more here.
According to a recent Gallup poll, 42% of parents worry about the impact COVID-19 will have on their children’s education. Despite the fact that New Jersey school districts are adapting and educators have gone above and beyond, altering lesson plans and creating virtual classrooms overnight, students have encountered difficulties learning in this current climate. In response, New Jersey lawmakers have developed a task force to follow the impact of education from COVID-19. There are a number of issues this pandemic has brought to the forefront that the task force should address to ensure all students are receiving an equitable education. New Jersey school districts first faced the challenge of providing computers to students in order to access online learning. While wealthier districts were able to fulfill this request, low- and moderate-income districts have struggled to supply this resource, further contributing to inequity in the classroom which already exists. Even once supplied, parents who lack computer knowledge have struggled to assist their children as they navigate new online learning programs. This, coupled with internet access and internet stability, has made distance learning a virtual nightmare for many families putting at-risk students at an even greater disadvantage. Read the full Opinion-Editorial in northjersey.com from Heather Sorge, HSN Campain Manager, WEC [...]
Here in New Jersey, warehouse workers have been classified by the state as essential workers. It’s not hard to understand why. As COVID-19 spreads, these workers are the ones ensuring that food, cleaning products, medicine, and other vital goods are distributed to millions of people. But while the state government rightly considers warehouse workers essential, their employers treat them as disposable. That’s wrong and unacceptable, especially during this pandemic. Too many New Jersey residents employed in warehouses are still not given the protection and respect they deserve. According to news reports and first-hand accounts, COVID-19 is spreading quickly in New Jersey warehouses, because owners and operators of these facilities are not implementing rigorous cleaning measures, health and safety protocols, and other measures. Read the full opinion-editorial in the Star-Ledger by Alberto Arroyo is co-manager of the Laundry, Distribution and Food Service Joint Board (LDFS Union), Workers United, SEIU and Debra Coyle McFadden is executive director of WEC.
Download a pdf of this announcement here. 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 a full-time, experienced Campaign Organizer for the Jersey Renews effort based in our Trenton office. The position begins ASAP and no later than April 1 and is a 12-month full-time position with the option to renew if funding is secured. The person hired will organize and expand Jersey Renews’ dynamic, statewide grassroots advocacy and organizing efforts. The campaign focuses on making New Jersey a leader on state-based climate policy, including emissions reductions, increased clean energy production the creation of family-sustaining jobs, and reduced air pollution. The campaign organizer will work to build and maintain a broad-based, multi-sector alliance which includes partners in the climate/environmental, labor, community-based, faith, and other sectors and coordinate events, including meetings for the steering committee, the larger coalition, opinion leaders, legislative stakeholders, the media and others. Responsibilities The Campaign Organizer will be responsible for: Partner Recruitment and Outreach Maintain and expand diverse coalition of key organizations in strategic sectors, through in-person and telephone contact, participatory campaign planning meetings, [...]
Photo Credit: New Jersey Education Association It's uncertain how many school gymnasium floors in New Jersey are emitting a level of mercury vapor that's unsafe for the students and adults who come in contact with them daily. While new guidance from the state aims to get a better idea of the problem's reach and help schools determine whether their rubber-like gym floor is cause for concern and may need to be removed, a coalition of healthy-school advocates believes the update falls short in a number of areas. "Part of our recommendation has been and continues to be that they conduct a statewide survey of rubberized floors," said Heather Sorge, campaign organizer for Healthy Schools Now with the NJ Work Environment Council. "Our staff and our children, our students should not be in an environment where they're being exposed to mercury vapor." Read More
Press Release For Immediate Release: February 19, 2020 Contact: Heather L. Sorge, NJ Work Environment Council, Campaign Organizer for Healthy Schools Now 908/310-7874; firstname.lastname@example.org Debra Coyle McFadden, NJ Work Environment Council, Executive Director 609/707-1320; email@example.com New Jersey Department of Health Issues Updated Guidance on Mercury Found in School Floors DOH outlines measures to identify, test, manage and eliminate the hazard, but DOH misses the mark to enact the most protective standard for staff and students The New Jersey Department of Health (DOH) has released updated guidance for the evaluation and management of mercury-containing floors in NJ schools. Some rubber-like polyurethane floors may contain phenylmercuric acetate (PMA) that over time breaks down and releases mercury vapor indefinitely. Mercury vapor is odorless and colorless. These hazardous floors, which the New Jersey Education Association (NJEA), NJ Work Environment Council (WEC), and Healthy Schools Now (HSN) sounded the alarm about back in 2017, continue to be identified in schools across the state and the county. The floors have been installed since the 1960s and may even be hidden under other existing flooring. This flooring, and items that have been in contact with it, may emit harmful mercury vapor. Mercury vapor can damage the central nervous [...]
“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.
Today, the Governor delivered the State of the State address, highlighting change in New Jersey that WEC and many of our close partners have worked to enact over the past year. We were glad to hear the governor hold steady in his commitment to lead remediation in schools and in our homes, creating union jobs in the new clean energy economy with an emphasis on offshore wind, as well as his renewed commitment towards a millionaire’s tax and tax incentive program reform. We are also pleased to hear the administration will focus on releasing a strategic and capital plan for the future of New Jersey Transit as well as a commitment to examining runaway income inequality and wealth disparity. These efforts, both from the administration and advocates, have helped to begin transforming New Jersey into a safer, more equitable, and more sustainable environment for workers and working-class families. However, there is more work to be done. In 2020, the Work Environment Council and our members would like to see the administration, and the New Jersey legislature take action on: Improving transparency, accountability and safety related to trains carrying crude oil and other hazardous substances in New Jersey. Banning the use [...]