As COVID-19 continues to ravage our country and state, we find ourselves confronting an even more dangerous enemy: systemic racism. It is impossible to watch the video of George Floyd being brutally murdered by a white police officer and not feel outrage.
In an act of solidarity, NYC bus drivers represented by TWU Local 100 are refusing to transport protesters for the NYPD. A tweet from TWU Local 10 twitter account:
TWU Local 100 Bus Operators do not work for the NYPD. We transport the working families of NYC , all TWU Operators should refuse to transport arrested protesters.
This article in Labor Notes documents how labor in the twin cities are mobilizing to demand racial justice. Since this article was written three days ago, more unions have mobilized.
The fight for economic justice and worker justice must happen hand-in-hand with the fight for racial justice. The issues are inextricably linked.
We must join together in solidarity to demand change and justice.
Debra Coyle McFadden Executive Director
Op-Ed: The Virus Exposed New Jersey’s Inequities and Failures
Executive Director Debra Coyle McFadden explores the systemic inequities and environmental disasters that the COVID-19 crisis has exposed in an op-ed published with NJ.com, including the way climate change and our polluted air have disproportionately affected poor communities and communities of color.
“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.”
Our COVID-19 weekly webinar series, co-sponsored by Rutgers LEARN and Jersey Renews, continues to be informative and popular. The webinar airs on Tuesday's at 10 am.
The June 2 episode will focus on reopening our schools and will feature the Assistant Commissioner of Education Cary Booker. Register here.
Week 10: Workers’ Rights, Worker Safety and Workplace Justice featured Marcy Goldstien-Gelb, Co-Director of National COSH and Nancy Lessin, retired United Steelworker and COSH fellow on the Safe and Just Return to Work report; a blueprint for opening the economy with worker protections and worker justice in the forefront.
We were also joined by Lou Kimmel, Executive Director, New Labor to discuss a proposed Executive Order: COVID-19 Worker Protections that would implement a meaningful and enforceable right to refuse work in violation of mandated pandemic protections now before Governor Murphy.
Week 9: Working Safer in Unsafe Times: What’s Happening in the Construction Industry and at Distribution Centers featured Anthony Abrantes, Organizing & Political Director for the Eastern Atlantic States Regional Council of Carpenters; Dave Hancock, Warehouse Campaign Director, Laundry, Distribution and Food Service Joint Board, Workers United, SEIU; and Christian Smalls, an organizer and Former Warehouse Assistant Manager at Amazon who spoke about conditions inside of Amazon warehouses during the COVID19 crisis, negligence towards the health and safety of workers on Amazon’s part as an employer, and efforts to organize Amazon workers on the frontlines. You can learn more about Christian’s work here.
Week 8: Worker and Community Health with Katherine Stoher, Deputy Commissioner of Operations, New Jersey Department of Children and Families (DCF), and Laura Johnson, Assistant Research Professor at the Center on Violence Against Women and Children focused 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.
Week 7: NJ Whistleblower Protections, What it Says, What it doesn’t, and How to Use It featured labor and employment attorneys Rosemarie Cipparulo and David Tykulsker discussing whistleblower protections in New Jersey, including the Conscientious Employees Protection Act (CEPA).
The National Council for Occupational Safety and Health has released A Safe and Just Return to Work: A Worker Centered Guide. It includes measures that state and local governments --including governors, county and municipal officials, state and local public health and labor departments, and occupational safety and health officials --can enact in the immediate and longer term to protect the health and well-being of all residents. These efforts will help bring about a more inclusive and equitable economy and an end to health, social and economic disparities.
Key elements of the report include:
Effective and stringent health and safety protections, informed by science, well enforced, and with input directly from workers and unions.
A planned, detailed and meaningful system of screening, testing, contact tracing, proper isolation and epidemiological surveillance
Guaranteed job protection and just compensation for those working and for those who can not
Meaningful worker and union involvement in all planning and decision-making regarding safety in the workplace and return to work
Measures to ensure equity, inclusion, and a path to end health and economic disparities
WEC is proud to stand with the National Council for Occupational Safety and Health in demanding that our new normal centers around justice for workers and vulnerable communities. We cannot rebuild our country at the expense of the poor and working class again.
Our most vulnerable students- those in low income districts, and those in special education classes, face even greater challenges.
Internet access, internet stability, language barriers, family illness, attendance, and difficulties providing special services to students are just some of the hurdles our students and educators now face.
Have you heard about the EPA’s “Strengthening Transparency in Regulatory Science” rule, also known as the “Restricting Science” or “Secret Science” rule? Unfortunately, with all heads turned towards COVID-19, we wouldn’t blame you if you haven’t!
The rule would restrict the science that EPA could utilize for regulations, including air, water and pollution standards, to only those studies that meet certain criteria. What does this mean? The EPA couldn’t consider public health studies that are based on confidential private medical information, which are vital for understanding public health and the impacts of pollution. The rule directly contradicts the agency’s own mission by further endangering public health and environmental protections, especially for disproportionately impacted communities.
Diana Crowder retired from the WEC Industrial Hygienist team this past month. We want to sincerely thank Diana for her incredible body of work and friendship over the past eight years.
Diana was recruited to the team by our original team members, Eileen Senn and Adrienne Markowitz, in 2012and became the program coordinator in 2017. Diana has assisted countless union and community members on a broad range of health and safety issues from numerous indoor-air quality concerns to workplace violence and chemical hazards. Diana conducted countless school walk throughs and educational presentations over her tenure with WEC. We wish her well in her retirement and hope she drops us a postcard from time to time.