WEC lost a dear friend on Tuesday, April 21, when Dominick Marino passed away suddenly. We extend our sincerest condolences to his family and union brothers and sisters.
Dominick was President of the Professional Firefighters Association of New Jersey, the chartered state association of the International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF) since 2008. Helping people was a big part of what drove Dominick. He became a firefighter in 1986 for the North Bergen Fire Department. In 1999, the North Bergen Fire Department became the North Hudson Regional Fire and Rescue Department. He retired from that Fire Department in 2011. Dominick served on the board of the local firefighters union for more than 25 years.
Dominick was a fierce advocate for his members. He championed continued benefits for 9/11 first responders, the Federal Firefighter Cancer Registry, and increased federal investments to ensure firehouses have the staffing and equipment they need to protect local communities. Due in large part to Dominick’s advocacy, Governor Murphy signed the Thomas P. Canzanella 21st Century First Responders Protection Act in August of 2019, which secured workers compensation for first responders following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks
Dominick was a vocal supporter of WEC's work to provide public access to chemical emergency response and served on our Board of Directors from 2015 to present. Like so many others, I will miss our friendship, his laugh, sage advice and words of encouragement. He left us too soon, but we keep him in our thoughts as we continue to fight for firefighters, and all workers, to have safety protections. Good-bye my friend.
Debra Coyle McFadden Executive Director
PS Attention labor, non-profit and community leaders. Please take this 3 question survey to tell us the biggest challenge your constituency is facing with COVID-19.
WEC has partnered with LEARN and Jersey Renews to co-host a series of COVID-19 webinars on workplace protections. These webinars include updates from frontline workers, union leaders, experts from government agencies, and Governor Murphy’s office. Please join us every Tuesday at 10am. To see recaps from past episodes and register for future ones, go to WEC's COVID-19 Resource for Workers web page.
Our next webinar is on May 5 - Resources for Health and Well Being. You can register for it here. Public health, community health, and worker health and safety intersect at times like these. This Week's Update focuses on family safety, health and well-being, how to protect children and families, and what we can expect from State agencies and their service provider partners.
Disinvestment in our state agencies that began in 2008 by Governor Chris Christie led to almost a decade of staff shortages that have hampered New Jersey's ability to respond. Taken as a whole, staffing levels across all departments dropped by over 20 percent since the Great Recession in 2008. Today, funding for departments has yet to reach pre-recession levels and, for many, staffing is at a record-low for the past two decades. Without proper funding, state government cannot fully serve the needs of the public, especially during a time of crisis when the demand for services is at an all-time high. Read the full policy brief here.
Warehouse Worker Protections - More Needs to Be Done
On April 8, 2020, Governor Murphy issued Executive Order 122, which included stipulations for essential retail, manufacturing and warehouses to stagger work start and stop times and lunch breaks, require infection control practices, limit sharing of tools, equipment and machinery, immediately separate and send home workers who appear to have symptoms consistent with COVID-19, and to notify workers of any known exposure to COVID-19 at the worksite, among other requirements. This is a good step, but more needs to be done.
Action was taken in-part due to news reports and first-hand accounts that 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. That's why WEC and our partners in the Warehouse Workers Stand Up Coalition developed a comprehensive platform, COVID-19 Action for Responsible Warehouse Operators, calling for additional protections.
Want to learn more about the conditions in warehouses that necessitated this action by the Governor? Read this op-ed by Debra Coyle McFadden, Executive Director, WEC and Alberto Arroyo, co-manager of the Laundry, Distribution and Food Service Joint Board (LDFS Union), Workers United, SEIU on the horrendous working conditions in warehouses.
Every year, working people and their organizations observe Workers’ Memorial Day, April 28, to remember those who have been injured or died on the job, and to renew our commitment to creating safe workplaces for every worker. This year was no different. Well, maybe a little different since this was a virtual march. This past Saturday, WEC joined with New Labor, Jersey Renews and United Steelworkers District 4 among others to sponsor the event.
On average, a worker dies every 100 minutes. In 2019, New Jersey lost 29 workers. This year, we recognized the danger healthcare workers and essential workers have been put in by the COVID19 health crisis. Close to a hundred people joined us as we declared our renewed commitment to the fight for safe, secure jobs for all and demand a new economy that puts workers before profit. We remember the dead, and fight like hell for the living!
EPA Relaxes Rules
In the midst of the pandemic, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has suspended enforcement actions essentially giving a pass to polluters. To be clear, the federal agency with the core mission of protecting public health is not doing it. The rationale given by Administrator Wheeler was, "...challenges resulting from efforts to protect workers and the public from COVID-19 may directly impact the ability of regulated facilities to meet all federal regulatory requirements."
The EPA is exacerbating the pandemic by putting already overburdened communities in greater danger - the same communities that are disproportionately impacted by COVID-19. What started out as a public health crisis has turned into an economic and environmental justice crisis. We call on the EPA to reverse course immediately.
Annual Dirty Dozen Report
Every year, the National Council for Occupational Safety and Health publishes its “Dirty Dozen” report - a list of the 12 employers who have most egregiously violated workers’ rights to a safe, secure workspace. This year's Special Coronavirus Edition of the Dirty Dozen report highlights North Bergen, New Jersey’s very own Lincoln Recycling Services. Lincoln Recycling has had three worker deaths since 2016. Their names are:
Rigoberto Guerrero, 52, who was crushed to death when a forklift fell on him in 2016.
Angelo Maietta, 31, who was hit and killed by a payloader when making a drop off at Lincoln Recylcing in 2018.
Horacio Diaz, 61, was crushed to death in a preventable accident in January of 2020.
No family should ever say goodbye to a loved one leaving for work and expect never to see them again. We mourn with all families that have suffered a loss of a loved one and vow to continue to work with National COSH to advance workplace protections in New Jersey and across the country.