Clean-energy investment is a way to tackle climate change and at the same time create jobs upon which futures can be built Investment in renewable energy nationwide, spurred by President Joe Biden’s “Build Back Better” campaign, represents even more than an opportunity to fight back against the health, safety and economic threats from climate change. Done right, it also has the potential to dramatically make work pay again for millions of Americans who’ve been shoved aside for too many years in an economy where the rich got richer and — well, you know the rest. Read the entire OpEd.
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.
Victor Teran and his colleagues at Banker Steel in South Plainfield go to work every day proud that their skill and dedication keep some of New York City’s biggest buildings sturdy and safe. Skyscraper developers buy steel fabricated by Teran and about 200 other members of United Steelworkers Local 8288-67 because they understand their need for top-quality material meticulously produced by highly trained workers nearby. Read the entire opinion piece here.
Child labor laws have been passed, a minimum wage has been set, overtime laws are in place, and there is a federal agency dedicated to occupational safety and health, OSHA. “So, what do we need unions for?” This is a common refrain uttered by opponents of unions as well as many workers who have never belonged to a union. Welcome to the pandemic terrordome. Read the entire op-ed here.
There have been nearly 5 million confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the United States, and this virus has no intention of going away anytime soon. As New Jersey plans to reopen schools, health and safety must be at the forefront. We cannot reopen schools without strong health and safety measures in place to protect our students and school staff. Given the lack of strong federal guidance, The New Jersey Work Environment Council, Healthy Schools Now coalition and the national Healthy Schools Network released A Call to Action. It calls on states to produce authoritative school infection, prevention, and control plans which local schools can adopt. This report, backed by science and developed alongside health experts, school advocates, and worker representatives is the first report that simultaneously prioritizes school staff and student’s health. Read the entire op-ed here.
This past week, WEC placed an op-ed outlining how a state-chartered public bank can help us achieve safe, secure jobs and a healthy sustainable environment for New Jersey. "If the past three months have proven anything in New Jersey, it’s that we need money. Not “we,” meaning our millionaires and billionaires and Wall-Street backed corporations. “We,” meaning workers. “We,” meaning communities of color. “We” means the poor, the working class and the near-mythical middle class. “We” means the people hit hardest by the health and economic devastation brought by COVID-19. “We” have big problems, and you can’t fix big problems without money. We need the state to invest money into accomplishing good things for the public. To do that most effectively, we need a state-chartered public bank in New Jersey, and we need it fast because it can provide the resources we need quickly and efficiently, and it can stop Wall Street from getting its grubby little mitts on the profits." Read the full piece here!
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.
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 [...]
COVID-19 is our World War II – to fight it, we need to reconnect to our sense of social responsibility.
Coronavirus is an existential threat that could inspire individuals, businesses, and governments to act like they haven’t since World War II. In 1943, Eleanor Roosevelt planted a “Victory Garden” on the White House’s lawn, with the intention of encouraging Americans to grow their own vegetables, to reduce food and labor shortages as a result of World War II. By the end of World War II, some 40% of all vegetables consumed in the United States were grown in Victory Gardens. One poster read: “PLANT A VICTORY GARDEN. OUR FOOD IS FIGHTING.” Social responsibility is in our veins. Our concept of connectedness after World War II, while notably racist and exclusionary (something that should always be addressed and considered when forming new policies), allowed us to build some of the most effective social infrastructure the world had ever seen in the 20th century. The financialization of our economy and our political lives in the 1980s tricked us. After the Civil Rights movement won many of its battles to include everyone in that incredible social infrastructure, we were suddenly told it doesn’t matter. That every individual is an island. That government was the problem, and that there was no such thing as “society.” [...]
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.