From the Executive Director's Desk

A safe workplace is the responsibility of every employer. Period. It is required by law, regardless of employee immigration status. 

The raid on poultry workers in Mississippi on August 15 that lead to 680 workers being detained has sparked a national dialogue on how the poultry packing industry has been exploiting workers for decades.

In a recent interview on NPR Angela Stuess, an anthropologist at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, discussed how the poultry industry targeted undocumented workers after African American workers started organizing in the 80’s and 90’s. 

Employers targeted a vulnerable population to fill unsafe, demanding jobs - another example of corporations putting profit over people. 

It should come as no surprise, then, that just one year before these raids, Koch Foods settled for $3.75 million to pay out to workers in an Equal Opportunity Commission lawsuit. 

From the Clarion Ledger, “The workers and EEOC alleged Koch subjected Hispanic employees and female employees to a hostile work environment and disparate treatment based on their race/national origin and sex, and then retaliated against those who complained.”

Employers that refuse to allow their workers the right to organize and bargain collectively for safer jobs and higher pay, and exploit undocumented people in order to do it, destroy our economy. Blaming workers, undocumented or otherwise, is blaming the victim.

As we talk about safe workplaces, it is hard to go to work when your workplace is underwater or on fire from extreme weather events caused by climate change. 

July was the hottest month on record. Not the hottest July, the hottest month on record. As of the writing of this newsletter, the Amazon rainforest, the earth's lungs, is burning at an alarming rate and scientists fear this may be a tipping point for this fragile ecosystem. We cannot wait any longer to take bold action on climate change. 

To that end, Governor Phil Murphy released the draft Energy Master Plan in June. This is the blueprint for how NJ will reach its renewable energy goals. Like all plans, some pieces are good and other areas fall short. Now is the time to get involved and make your voice heard. 

There are three stakeholder sessions in September and written comments are due September 16. In addition to ensuring New Jersey is on the right path to achieve meaningful greenhouse gas reductions and increase renewable energy, we must use this crisis as an opportunity to build a new energy economy that creates good family-sustaining union jobs. 

In Solidarity,

Debra Coyle McFadden
Executive Director


WEC Awards Dinner

Please join the NJ Work Environment Council (WEC) on Friday, November 22, 2019, at 6:00 PM for our Annual Awards Dinner to be held at The College of New Jersey, Room 212 in the Education Building, Ewing, NJ. This year we honor:

Marie Blistan, President, New Jersey Education Association
Luke Gordon, Staff Representative, United Steelworkers
Brandon McKoy, President, New Jersey Policy Perspective 
Doug O’Malley, Director, Environment New Jersey
Elizabeth Smith, Executive Director, Statewide Education Organizing Committee

We will also recognize two outstanding new leaders:

Adrienne Markowitz Rising Star Award
Yolanda Hernández Sanchez, Founder, Unidos por Escuelas Dignas

Rising Star Award
Kason Little, Elizabeth Community Leader and Activist

Please join us in celebrating the achievements of our honorees by either sponsoring the event, placing an ad in the journal (print and online) and/or purchasing tickets. The deadline to place an ad is November 1. 


Time for Turbines Packs the Hall as Stakeholders Prepare for Offshore Wind

The workforce development and labor panel featuring (left to right) Assistant Commissioner Hugh Bailey with NJ Dept of Labor and Workforce Development, Wyatt Earp of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, William Snyder of the United Brotherhoods of Carpenters & Joiners of America, Anna Fendley of the United Steelworkers, and Hillary Bright with the BlueGreen Alliance.

Friday, August 16th, more than 250 people packed the Stockton University Fannie Lou Hamer room for Time for Turbines, the third annual offshore wind conference hosted by Jersey Renews and the Business Network for Offshore Wind. This unique conference brought together labor leaders, environmental activists, government representatives, and industry leaders to start conversations with one another as New Jersey begins to build and invest in the burgeoning offshore wind industry.

At the event, Governor Murphy announced via recorded video that he signed Executive Order Number 79 to establish the New Jersey WIND Institute, to be led by the Office of the Secretary of Higher Education and the New Jersey Economic Development Authority (EDA). The WIND Institute will act as a clearinghouse for offshore wind educational and training programs to develop a highly-skilled workforce along with the technology and development necessary for offshore wind infrastructure.

Time for Turbines also included a slew of diverse perspectives essential to ensuring that the NJ offshore wind supply chain is developed in an ethical and sustainable way Stakeholders discussed creating good, family-sustaining jobs and labor-friendly policies, ensuring that both the turbines and construction timeline do not interfere with migration patterns for wildlife, and developing a smooth process as we transition the grid to renewables.


Governor Murphy Signs Two Bills
To Protect First Responders

Governor Murphy recently signed the “Thomas P. Canzanella 21st Century First Responders Protection Act” and the “Bill Ricci World Trade Center Rescue, Recovery, and Cleanup Operations Act," both of which are named after 9/11 first responders.

“The signing of the “Thomas P. Canzanella 21st Century First Responders Protection Act,” Firefighters, first responders, public safety workers, and their families in New Jersey will benefit in the event of an injury, illness or death in the performance of their duties,” said Dominick Marino, President of the Professional Firefighters Association of New Jersey. “

These bills expand medical coverage for first responders in New Jersey. Read more to learn about who will be covered.


New Jersey Schools Development Authority Takes Action to Protect Kids from Mercury Found in Floors

Due to advocacy by the NJ Work Environment Council, Healthy Schools Now and NJ Education Association and other partners, the New Jersey Schools Development Authority (NJSDA) will be requiring a certification from manufacturers of rubberized and/or urethane floors installed on SDA projects ensuring the floor does not contain phenyl mercuric acetate (PMA) or other mercury catalysts. 

The additional certification from manufacturers is necessary as Safety Data Sheets (SDS) and date of installation are not determining factors in identifying whether or not a floor contains mercury. The only reliable way to determine whether a floor contains mercury is to test using bulk sampling by an accredited laboratory.                                  

This spring several contaminated floors were found in Gloucester County New Jersey, many of which are being removed this summer. It remains unclear as to how many of these floors exist in New Jersey schools. While the SDA’s requirement is a great first step, it only applies to new projects in the 31 SDA districts, so there is still much work to be done. We need all NJ school districts to require this additional certification, and to identify and test these floors for toxicity.

Please contact campaign organizer Heather Sorge at for additional information.


Finally some common sense regarding corporate handouts?

The past few months in New Jersey have been dominated by headlines on investigative reports, op-eds, activism, testimony, whistleblowing, and a government task-force, all highlighting the absurd handouts the Economic Development Authority has made to mega-wealthy corporations with no expected return for our workers. 

So who would have guessed that all it would take was a tweet from Louis Di Paulo at New Jersey Policy Perspective to get state legislators to open up about collaborating with other nearby states to end these absurd policies? Sometimes we need to mobilize thousands of people. Other times all we need is a well-placed tweet.


Congratulations John Shinn and Del Vitale

John Shinn                                     Del Vitale

Congratulations to both John Shinn and Del Vitale on their new leadership positions in the United Steelworkers (USW). John, a WEC Board Member since 2001, was appointed by the International Executive Board as the Secretary-Treasurer. Prior to his appointment, Shinn served as the District Four Director since 2012. Del Vitale, is now the USW Director of District 4. Del, has served as USW Assistant to the District Director since 2015.

WEC looks forward to continuing to work with both John and Del as we work to advance policies in New Jersey that are good for labor and the environment.


SDA Monthly Board Meeting

Wednesday, September 4
9 am
32 East Front Street
Trenton, NJ 08825

For more information, contact Heather Sorge, WEC Campaign Organizer for Healthy Schools,


WEC Awards Dinner

​Friday, November 22
Room 212
Education Building
The College of New Jersey
Ewing, NJ


WEC Annual Membership Meeting

Tuesday, December 10
12 pm
NJEA Headquarters
Trenton, NJ

Guest Speaker
Rick Engler
Board Member of the
US Chemical Safety Board


National COSH Conference

​December 3 - 5
Maritime Conference Center
Baltimore, MD



New Jersey Work Environment Council (WEC)
172 West State Street 2nd Floor | Trenton, New Jersey 08618
6098826100 |

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