PES explosion on June 21, 2019. Photo credit to NBC Philadelphia. In South Jersey, this year we have a big reason to be grateful. In June, according to a recent report from the U.S. Chemical Safety Board (CSB), a million residents of South Jersey and Pennsylvania narrowly escaped exposure to hydrofluoric acid, a highly toxic gas, after a preventable series of explosions at the Philadelphia Energy Solutions refinery. When the explosion took place at 4 am, a control system operator immediately hit a switch to move the deadly hydrofluoric acid into a separate drum out of danger. Three other refinery workers fought flames to shut valves supplying fuel to the fire. The reward for these brave workers, all members of United Steelworkers Local 10-1? They lost their jobs, along with over 1,000 others. We’re lucky this disaster did not cause any loss of life. But it’s inexcusable that so many residents were put at risk and so many workers lost their livelihoods due to apparent negligence by company executives — who paid themselves $4.5 million in bonuses just two weeks after the incident. Read the full opinion-editorial piece in the South Jersey Times by Debra Coyle McFadden, WEC Executive Director here. [...]
This week marks the seventh anniversary of Hurricane Sandy. We all remember the fear and anxiety that gripped communities as we faced winds up to 90 miles an hour and sea levels 14 feet higher than normal. The storm claimed hundreds of lives and cost tens of billions of dollars in New Jersey, New York and up and down the East Coast. Health-related costs in New York and New Jersey alone were more than $3 billion. Is New Jersey ready for the next Sandy? The oil and chemical industries are important to the New Jersey economy. But we must not lose sight of the health and safety of workers in those industries, or the well-being of residents in surrounding communities. No one knows when the next storm might hit, when flood waters might rise, or when extreme heat might cause a disaster we can’t foresee. That’s why it’s more important than ever that industries that handle hazardous substances operate with full transparency and take steps to prepare for emergencies. Read the full Opinion-Editorial in The Star Ledger from Debra Coyle McFadden, WEC, Executive Director here.
The warehouse sector that supports the multibillion dollar e-commerce economy is booming. New Jersey shouldn’t give tax breaks to corporations that exploit the warehouse workers who make it happen. There are major problems with our state’s controversial tax incentive program, administered by the New Jersey Economic Development Authority. Over the past year, alarming reports of a lack of oversight and a tangled mess of corporate cronyism at the NJEDA have become a symbol for economic and political dysfunction in New Jersey. NJEDA reform must focus on the quality of jobs we incentivize with our limited taxpayer resources – a topic largely missing from the tax incentive debate. Read the full Opinion-Editorial on NJ.com from the Star-Ledger by Alberto Arroyo is the International vice president of Workers United, SEIU. Brandon Castro is the campaign organizer for NJ Work Environment Council.
Floors emitting mercury vapor have now been found in several school districts in New Jersey. Schools have been using rubber-like polyurethane floors since the 1960s. Some of these floors, installed as late as 2006, contain phenyl mercuric acetate (PMA), a catalyst that releases odorless, colorless mercury vapor. Any item that has been in contact with these contaminated floors emits harmful mercury vapor indefinitely. Recently, several New Jersey schools have had to confront concerned parents and staff members regarding these toxic floors, as well as the exorbitant cost to remove and remediate them. One such stand-out parent is Colette Staab of Washington Township who has mobilized fellow parents to get engaged and to stay informed by attending local school board meetings and pushing for greater transparency. Read the full opinion-editorial on NJ.com from the Star-Ledger by Heather Sorge, Healthy Schools Now organizer for the NJ Work Environment Council and Trisha Sheehan is the national field manager for Moms Clean Air Force. Healthy Schools Now
These days, New Jersey plays a major role in the multi-billion dollar e-commerce economy. The workers who make this economy possible deserve a fair shake. E-commerce warehouses that support online retailers, national chain stores, and top apparel brands are expanding in New Jersey because of our large ports, our highway system, and our proximity to millions of customers in the New York City metro area. As the governor looks to reform our state subsidy programs, New Jersey should attach enforceable labor standards to the incentives that warehouse operators, e-commerce companies, and logistics firms receive for doing business here in New Jersey. Read the full opinion-editorial on nj.com from the Star-Ledger by By Alberto Arroyo, international vice president of Workers United and Debra Coyle McFadden, executive director, NJ Work Environment Council.
When you think of the word “school” what comes to mind? Overcrowding? Leaking roofs, mold and mercury exposure? Extreme temperatures, windows that don’t open? Inadequate air quality from poor ventilation? How about asbestos, lead in drinking water, or rodent infestations? Unfortunately, for many students and staff in New Jersey, these issues are a daily reality. As a result, there is increased absenteeism, illness, and poor morale. The good news is that New Jersey already has a framework in place to fix these problems. The bad news is that the SDA is out of money. It has not received any new funding since 2008, and all prior funding has been used or is already allocated. This means that there are zero funds available for any new major capital projects in SDA or ROD districts despite the tremendous need that remains. Read the full opinion-editorial by Heather Sorge, WEC campaign organizer for Healthy Schools Now and Rosie Grant, executive director of Paterson Education Fund.
It has been more than a year since the Christie administration ended, but it turns out it left one last surprise for New Jersey’s workers and taxpayers, according to an audit released by the New Jersey State Comptroller last month. The report suggests that, under former Gov. Chris Christie, the Economic Development Authority (EDA) gave away billions of dollars in tax credits to some of the most profitable corporations in the world through an $11-billion dollar series of tax-subsidy programs. The comptroller’s report, however, found a severe lack of oversight. Corporations were, in most situations, allowed to self-report, and often manipulated or obscured details in order to inflate their contributions to our economy: “In 24 of the 37 sampled projects, about 65%, we found close to 3,000 recipient-reported jobs that were not substantiated as having been created or retained.” It is estimated that one in five jobs were not substantiated. Read the full opinion-editorial by Brandon Castro, WEC campaign organizer for Runaway Inequality.
Sometimes success is about being in the right place at the right time. Eight years after the signing of one of the nation’s most robust laws to open the market to offshore-wind generation, New Jersey’s moment has arrived. On September 13, Gov. Phil Murphy announced that the state is on course to reach its benchmark goal of 3,500 megawatts of offshore-wind energy capacity by 2030. And on October 1, he announced the creation of the Wind Innovation & New Development Institute, a key plank of his economic master plan which will catalyze investment to meet offshore-wind goals. Matched with the tangible actions of the Board of Public Utilities which last month unanimously approved opening an application window for 1,100 MW of offshore-wind capacity, we now stand on the verge of realizing the paired goals of responsible environmental policy and investment in dynamic economic development for New Jersey and the region. The investment in offshore wind is strategic because of the expected capacity to match — and exceed — existing energy needs. “Wind Power to Spare,” a recent Environment New Jersey report, indicates there is enough wind off the Atlantic coast to generate four times the amount of electricity that the [...]
Many cities and towns in New Jersey are home to warehouse distribution centers. These are places where people pack and ship products that are later sold at Amazon.com and other large online retailers, as well as brick-and-mortar retail stores. Ensuring that jobs at these warehouses are safe, secure, and pay family-sustaining wages is crucial for the future of New Jersey’s economy. Read the full opinion-editorial on Northjersey.com by Brandon Castro, and Alberto Arroyo, International Vice President Workers' United, SEIU and WEC Public Need Over Corporate Greed organizer. Public Need Over Corporate Greed campaign
Rodents in the cafeteria. Crumbling ceilings. Mold growing in the classroom. Extreme temperatures in excess of 90 degrees. Toxic air quality from poor indoor air ventilation. Concerns about asbestos, lead and other toxins in the walls and pipes. Unfortunately, these are common problems right here in our New Jersey schools. The Healthy Schools Now coalition is committed to addressing these conditions and ensuring healthy school environments for all students. We believe that access to a healthy and safe school environment is essential for receiving a thorough and efficient education. We have fought to make that vision a reality by organizing and advocating for policy changes, demanding improvements for school facilities and issuing recommendations about school facility policies, including advocating for increased bonding for the New Jersey Schools Development Authority. Recently, new voices have caused us to think about broadening our mission. Students expressed fear that what happened in Texas, Florida, and other schools around the country, could happen in their schools. They talked about how easy it was to get into a school. They highlighted how simple it would be to bring a gun into a classroom. Read the full opinion-editorial on NJ.com from the Star-Ledger by Jerell Blakeley, WEC [...]