From the Executive Director's Desk

Happy Memorial Day Weekend!

Hopefully by now you have heard about WEC's virtual Annual Awards Ceremony on Wednesday, June 16 at 7:00 PM. The deadline to place an ad is this Friday, June 4. 

This year we honor the following individuals and organizations for their outstanding work throughout the challenging COVID-19 pandemic who we consider heroes:

  • Ellie Barbarash, Education/Health & Safety Coordinator, Health Professionals and Allied Employees (HPAE) 
  • Debbie Berkowitz, Worker Health & Safety Program Director, National Employment Law Project (NELP)
  • Todd Vachon, PhD, Director of the Labor Education Action Research Network and faculty member in the Department of Labor Studies and Employment Relations at Rutgers University’s School of Management and Labor Relations   
  • Protect NJ Workers Coalition, a diverse coalition of workers, worker centers, community groups, advocacy organizations, and labor unions, dedicated to expanding worker protections for all New Jersey workers
  • Wind of the Spirit Training Team, community promoters playing a fundamental role in educating, organizing and mobilizing immigrant families

The Adrienne Markowitz Rising Star Award goes to Nikki Baker,  Instructional Assistant, Dale Avenue School - Paterson, Educational Support Professional chair, Paterson Education Association, and NJEA Delegate Assembly Member for Passaic County.

We hope you will join us in celebrating our honorees by either sponsoring the event, placing an ad in the digital journal and/or purchasing tickets.

And many thanks to our sponsors! 


Debra Coyle McFadden
Executive Director

P.S. It is not too late to sponsor the celebration!


WEC Welcomes Walter Diaz to Our Staff!

This month, WEC is happy to welcome Walter Diaz to our staff.

Walter’s very first job was as an organizer and canvasser with NJACORN as a teen. Since then he has worked in diverse settings and professional fields including education, construction, and customer service, all the while remaining active in his community advocating for various causes. Walter has formed part of various organizations creating opportunities for fair housing, environmental justice, and community health in the city of Newark.

After successfully running city-wide campaigns including a municipal council candidate slate, policy ballot initiatives, and demonstrations, the city of Newark has one of the strongest rent ordinances on the east coast and is currently undergoing city-wide lead water service line replacements. 

Walter has now joined WEC as an Occupational Health & Safety Trainer with the objective of continuing WEC’s work in protecting the lives of workers across the state. Contact Walter if you are interested in training at


WEC Whistleblower Testimony to OSHA

On May 19, Debra Coyle McFadden, WEC's Executive Director, testified at a US Department of Labor, Occupational Safety and Health Administration Stakeholder meeting on whistleblower rights. Debra testified on the urgent need to strengthen whistleblower rights. An excerpt from her testimony: 

If workers are not truly protected when participating in safety or health activities, or reporting workplace hazards to their employer, they won’t do it. The impact of not reporting health and safety hazards may also go well beyond the workplace. For example, if a refinery or chemical worker doesn’t feel protected from retaliation, they might not report a serious health and safety hazard that if reported and corrected could prevent a toxic catastrophe. A hazard that is left unreported could lead to a toxic catastrophe such as a fire, explosion, or toxic release, not only put that worker at risk, but also the rest of the workforce, emergency responders, the surrounding community and the environment.

Read the full testimony here.


NIEHS COVID-19 Pandemic Vulnerability Index
This tool creates risk profiles for every county in the United States. It summarizes and visualizes overall risk. Try it out!


NJ Department of Health Video on COVID-19 Vaccine Development

Dr. Amesika Nyaku, Infectious Disease Doctor, Rutgers Health, shares how safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines were developed in a short time frame.

Dr. Amesika Nyaku - How safe, effective COVID-19 vaccines were developed quickly


WEC Annual Awards Ceremony
Wednesday, June 16 @ 7PM
More Information

Identifying Hazards in the Workplace in the Time of COVID-19
Monday, June 7, 10:00am - 12:00pm

NJ COVID-19 Awareness & Prevention Training
Wednesday, June 9, 6:00pm - 8:00pm 

NJ COVID-19 Awareness & Prevention Training
Monday, June 14, 12:00pm - 2:00pm

Preventing Exposure to Workplace Chemicals
Monday, June 21, 3:30pm - 5:30pm

NJ COVID-19 Awareness & Prevention Training
Tuesday, June 22, 9:00am - 11:00am



WEC Continues to Provide Paid COVID-19 Training through the Summer

WEC's COVID-19 training educates high-risk workers to identify and report unsafe conditions that could lead to COVID-19 exposure on the job. The training includes new curriculum to increase our understanding of the COVID-19 vaccines, and learn ways to cope with the pandemic. Eligible New Jersey workers will receive a stipend of $15 an hour to attend this two-hour training. We are using a new curriculum, so those who attended a COVID-19 training session in late 2020 can apply for a stipend. (See requirements on registration page.)

Upcoming Trainings
WEC can also provide worksite specific training AND training in Spanish. Contact Cecelia Leto at or Walter Diaz at

  • Wednesday, June 9, 6:00pm - 8:00pm - NJ COVID-19 Awareness & Prevention Training - Through the NJ COVID-19 Awareness and Prevention Training, employers, workers, and worker representatives will gain knowledge through participatory training sessions to reduce the risks of exposure to the COVID-19 in the workplace. WEC can pay participants $15 an hour to attend this training. 
  • Monday, June 14, 12:00pm - 2:00pm - NJ COVID-19 Awareness & Prevention Training - Through the NJ COVID-19 Awareness and Prevention Training, employers, workers, and worker representatives will gain knowledge through participatory training sessions to reduce the risks of exposure to the COVID-19 in the workplace. WEC can pay participants $15 an hour to attend this training.
  • Tuesday, June 22, 9:00am - 11:00am - NJ COVID-19 Awareness & Prevention Training - Through the NJ COVID-19 Awareness and Prevention Training, employers, workers, and worker representatives will gain knowledge through participatory training sessions to reduce the risks of exposure to the COVID-19 in the workplaceWEC can pay participants $15 an hour to attend this training. 


New York City Moves on Public Banking

In late April, New York City made steps towards democratizing the way its government handles financing, by requiring the city to publicly disclose all information related to city banking activity. This runs parallel to efforts being made at the state level in New York to establish a public bank.  Public banking is a step towards democratizing our economy, managing state funds more efficiently for working people, and preventing Wall Street from extracting exorbitant amounts of interest from taxpayers.

TAKE ACTION: Let state leadership know: it’s time New Jersey caught up, and established a public bank that represents and invests in working people.


The CDC's Guidance Ignores Risk to Workers

Dr. David Michaels and Jordan Barab, former leaders of OSHA under President Obama, wrote an opinion piece on how the Center for Disease Control (CDC) latest guidance endangers workers. The guidance states vaccinated people no longer need to wear masks in most indoor settings and no longer need to social distance. It ignores the reality, and risks, of many workplaces where unvaccinated workers are inadequately protected from exposure to the virus that causes COVID-19. Read an expert here:

Public health agencies like CDC are charged with protecting the health of populations, not just individuals. With its recent masking recommendation, the CDC is forgetting its basic public health mission, holding back our efforts to stop the COVID-19 pandemic, and increasing the danger that workers face.

Workplaces are centers of virus transmission, and those who work in such environments have borne a tragic burden throughout the pandemic. While most white-collar workers have sheltered at home, performing their job tasks on Zoom and other video platforms, workers in health care, transportation, food processing, corrections, retail and other essential jobs have been forced to come to work every day, risking their safety and the safety of their loved ones.

You can read their Op-Ed here.


NJ COVID-19 Restrictions Lifted - What Does this Mean for Workers?

On May 24 Governor Murphy signed Executive Order No. 242, lifting major COVID-19 restrictions and moving forward with the state’s most significant reopening steps to date. This action followed flawed guidance from the Biden Administration's Center for Disease Control (CDC). See story above.

This move by the Murphy Administration puts workers at risk and disproportionately puts Black and brown low-wage workers at-risk for contracting COVID-19 in the workplace. This is due to limited vaccine access for low-income communities of color. For example, many people of color who are working low wage jobs are forced to choose between their health and a paycheck. That's why the expansion of sick days and related paid leave are needed to help New Jersey reach its goal to have 4.7 million fully vaccinated New Jersey adults by June 30.

Compounding the problem is the continued failure of the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) for not issuing an emergency COVID standard. Workers remain unprotected by OSHA and the result is workers continue to get sick and die from contracting COVID-19 at work

Businesses can and should operate safely by using a hierarchy of controls approach to reducing the risks of COVID and in the workplace. 


COVID-19 vaccines are effective. It is an important tools to ending the COVID-19 pandemic and getting back to what you love. Learn more about the vaccine at the NJ COVID Page.


Advanced Clean Trucks Rule is Electrifying

Right now we have the opportunity to pass an important state policy for climate and clean air known as the Advanced Clean Truck Rule. 

The NJ Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) proposed adopting this precedent-setting policy from California, which would transition diesel trucks -- a major source of air pollution in New Jersey -- to electric. The regulation has two pieces, a manufacturer sales requirement and a reporting requirement. 

Electric trucks could create good new jobs with the installation of charging stations, vehicle maintenance and more. In the wake of a public health crisis that’s worsened by air pollution and that has left thousands of New Jerseyans unemployed, we need policies like this one that can put people back to work tackling climate change and making our communities healthier. 

In New Jersey port cities like Newark, Elizabeth and Bayonne, more than 200 trucks drive through residential streets every hour to transport goods. In these cities, diesel pollution is up to 150 times higher than the level considered safe to breathe, leading to child asthma rates nearly three times higher than the state's average. Truck pollution also harms transportation hub workers, who spend much of their week breathing in the diesel fumes. For worker and public health, NJ cannot delay electrifying trucks.

NJDEP will accept written comments on the ACT Rule until Friday, June 18. It’s critical that we show strong public support for the rule’s adoption and that we make the regulation as strong as possible. 

Please submit comments electronically here, and email Berenice at for talking points or with any questions.


Preventing Hazards in Healthcare

WEC can provide FREE training on a number of topics from Identifying Safety System Failures to Preventing Workplace Violence and Safe Patient Handling. For more information, please contact Cecelia Leto Gilligan at

Upcoming Trainings 

Monday , June 7, 10:00am - 12:00pm - Identifying Hazards in the Workplace in the Time of COVID-19Understanding the hierarchy of Systems of Safety (with design as the primary system) enables workers to become active participants in developing and implementing safe work practices (“training and procedures”). Join us as we introduce the concept of Systems of Safety and identifying safety system failures in the workplace. Click here for more information.


Monday, June 21, 3:30pm - 5:30pm - Preventing Exposure to Workplace Chemicals
Employers have a responsibility under OSHA’s HazCom Standard to educate and train employees about the chemicals they work with and how to protect themselves from any potential hazards. Join us as we discuss OSHA's HazCom standard and assessing chemical hazards and understanding safety data sheets. Click here for more information.


COVID-19 Webinar Series: Saving Lives, Protecting Workers

On May 17, we were joined by Dr. Eddy Bresnitz, MD and Dr. David J. Adinaro, MD who gave updates on the latest about vaccines and the vaccine distribution program here in New Jersey. 

Dr. Bresnitz spoke to the latest CDC recommendations and provided information for the Moderna, Pfizer and Janssen vaccines. Dr. Adinaro looked back at NJ’s initial goals in addressing the pandemic and gave updates on where we are today and what still needs to be done to reach those goals. Read more here including their presentations.

You can see recaps from all past episodes here.


Celebrating the Life of Nelson Carrasquillo

This month, the labor movement, along with the broader movement for health, safety, and dignity in our communities, lost one of its fiercest champions. Nelson Carrasquillo, long-time executive director for The Farmworker Support Committee (CATA), who passed away on May 8, 2021.

Nelson, who had previously lived and worked in Puerto Rico organizing fishermen and coastal communities, spent his career expanding CATA’s reach, organizing mushroom workers in PA and organizing workers for Right to Know legislation right here in New Jersey. Much of his work also focused on food sovereignty through community gardens for Latino immigrant communities. 

In almost every sense, he embodied the values of the environmental and labor movements, and understood intuitively the need for solidarity across issue silos. From CATA’s statement:

Nelson will be remembered with great fondness by all – even those he was known to argue and disagree with. He will be remembered as a leader, a philosopher, a friend, a teacher, a mentor, and a poet. He will be remembered for his deep belief in community leadership, his love of storytelling, his great passion for Mother Earth and a good camping trip and his strong loyalty and friendship.”


New Jersey Work Environment Council (WEC)
172 West State Street 2nd Floor | Trenton, New Jersey 08608
609.882.6100 |

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