A webinar series co-sponsored by Rutgers LEARN, the NJ Work Environment Council (WEC), and Jersey Renews

In this series, we hear from and speak with public health experts, government officials, medical personnel, legal experts, front-line workers and worker representatives about the latest developments in the fight against COVID-19. Feel free to bring your questions and join the conversation with fellow NJ workers, professionals, and advocates, building a community based upon caring, sharing, and repairing.

Visit our Facebook Page for up-to-the-minute information and registration.

For more information and links to resources from past episodes, please visit the website of our partner, the Work Environment Council.

Recent Episodes

November 16, 2021: Emotional Health and Resources for Children and Families During COVID-19

For our last episode in this eight-part miniseries we invited Dave Ellis, Executive Director, Office of Resilience, NJ Department of Children and FamiliesAmanda Adams, co-chair of the NJEA ACEs Taskforce; and Liz Warner, President, SEL4NJ to discuss how the pandemic has led to an increase of adverse conditions for children and families. Programs addressing social and emotional learning (SEL) and Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) help ensure that children and families live in good conditions with the supportive services they need.

Liz talked about the social-emotional skills of students and staff to create the foundation for a positive school climate. U.S. public-school teachers surveyed in January and February 2021 reported they are almost twice as likely to experience frequent job-related stress as the general employed and teachers are three times more likely to experience depression symptoms than the general adult population. SEL programs in schools can benefit students and staff. View Liz’s presentation here for more information including resources.

Amanda spoke about Actions 4 ACEs, a statewide initiative to build awareness about adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) and the role adults can play in reducing the impact of trauma and helping children heal. Two out of three children, nationally, have had at least one ACE.

Dave spoke about the NJ Resilience Coalition Community, an online community where people living and working in NJ can come together to help prevent ACEs and create a healthier, happier state. Here is a list of resources from their website. More than 20 people attended this webinar.

Additional Resources:

NJEA Learning for adult population: https://www.njea.org/njea-learning/

November 9, 2021: Resources for Safety and Support for Domestic Violence Victims During a Pandemic

This week we were joined by Womanspace Inc.’s Joshua Duncan and Bri-Anne Gladd.

Woven within the core of Womanspace Inc.’s 40 year history is the mission to empower and provide safety to all who face abuse and violence at home and at work. Joshua Duncan, Womanspace Domestic Violence Victim Response Team Coordinator, shared that 20,000 calls are placed a day to domestic violence hotlines. There are resources available to victims including paid leave benefits. He also emphasised how we must educate ourselves about domestic abuse and the recovery process in order to be able to help others.

Joshua, along with Bri-Anne Gladd, Womanspace Counselor Advocate, provided the audience with numerous resources to assist victims. “Abuse can come in many forms, outside of the physical”, they explained, and shared a power and control wheel depicting different forms. More than 23 people attended this webinar.

Please visit the following links to find further resources available in the fight against abuse and click here for a copy of their presentation.

October 26, 2021: Vaccines, Boosters & NJ Vaccine Distribution Program

This week we were joined by Marcy Goldstein-Gelb, Co-Executive Director of the National Council for Occupational Safety and Health and Dr. David Adinaro, Deputy Commissioner for Public Health Services, New Jersey Department of Health.

Marcy started the episode off with breaking news – Doug Parker was confirmed as the Assistant Secretary of Labor for the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. Parker brings his experience as head of Cal/OSHA, the nation’s largest statewide safety agency. He also served as executive director at Worksafe, a non-profit that provides legal services and public advocacy for workers seeking to improve safety on the job. Worksafe and WEC are both affiliates of the National Council for Occupational Safety and Health.

Then Dr. Adinaro shared with us the latest recommendations from the C.D.C on COVID-19 vaccine boosters. The new recommendations read as follows: For individuals who received a Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna COVID-19 vaccine, the following groups are eligible for a booster shot at 6 months or more after their initial series: 65 years and older, Ages 50-65 who live in long-term care settings, Age 18+ who have underlying medical conditions, Age 18+ who work or live in high-risk settings. For those who received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, booster shots are also recommended for those who are 18 and older and who were vaccinated two or more months ago. It also allows for a “mix-and-match” strategy allowing individuals to pick which vaccine they receive as a booster. You can find more information here on boosters, including eligibility. Dr. Adinaro also shared vaccination information broken down by county, gender, and race. To date, 76% of eligible NJ residents have been fully vaccinated. Click here for Dr. Adinaro’s presentation for more information. More than 94 people attended this webinar.

October 19, 2021: OSHA’s ETS and State Government Infectious Disease Prevention Policies

We were joined this week by Debbie Berkowitz, former Program Director of Worker Health and Safety of the National Employment Law Project and Marina Jabsky, Industrial Hygienist for NYCOSH.

Debbie discussed what the OSHA Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) on vaccine mandates and testing may include. The new ETS, which will cover both private and public sector, may be out as early as next week. Here in NJ, the Public Employees Occupational Safety and Health (PEOSH), has 30 days to adopt it. Questions remain on whether employers will be responsible for paying for COVID-19 testing in the absence of an employee getting vaccinated.

Marina walked us through the requirements of the New York Health and Essential Rights Act (NY HERO Act) that was signed into law on May 5, 2021. The law mandates new workplace health and safety protections in response to the COVID-19 pandemic including an Airborne Infectious Disease Exposure Prevention Standard. New York is the only state in the country to have such a standard.

Under this new law, the New York State Department of Labor, in consultation with the NYS Department of Health developed a Model Airborne Infectious Disease Exposure Prevention Plan, and various industry-specific model plans for the prevention of airborne infectious disease. Employers can choose to adopt the applicable policy template/plan provided by NYS DOL or establish an alternative plan that meets or exceeds the standard’s minimum requirements.

In addition, Section 2 of the HERO Act, which takes effect on November 1, 2021, requires employers who employ at least ten employees to allow employees to form a workplace safety committee. The committee’s scope applies to all workplace hazards, not just COVID-19. More than 40 people attended this webinar.

October 12, 2021: Building Equity and Resilience in Vulnerable Communities – Community Engagement Across New Jersey

Dr. Rick Marlink, Director of the Rutgers Global Health Institute, shared details of their initiatives in Newark, New Brunswick, and Trenton on advancing health equity and an equitable recovery for women and minority owned small and micro businesses throughout the pandemic. The program’s manager, Arpita Jindani described the efforts necessary to stop the domino effect that takes place when small locally owned businesses close. Their program assists with COVID-19 training, testing, and pop-up vaccination sites in addition to creating local Resilience Networks that provide small businesses connections with local support groups for financial and material support.

Former Asbury Park Mayor, Myra Campbell, continued the conversation on the importance of meeting the community members where they are to lower barriers of participation. Myra shared C.U.R.E.D.’s (Communities United Reaction to Eliminating Disparities) initiatives in Asbury Park and Neptune. C.U.R.E.D. was able to bring testing, education, and vaccination clinics directly to community hubs such as local churches. Partner groups in the effort include the New Jersey Black Women Physicians Association.

You can find the slides from the presentation here. For more information on the Rutgers Global Health Institute and their Equitable Recovery Program, please use the links below. More than 20 people attended this webinar.

Equitable Recovery for New Jersey’s Small Businesses | Rutgers Global Health Institute

New Brunswick Store Owner Gets Help From Equitable Recovery Program | News (rutgers.edu)

October 5, 2021: Building Ventilation and Minimizing Exposure to COVID-19

This episode we hosted industrial hygienist Allen Barkkume, MS, who informed us about the importance of good building ventilation to help mitigate COVID-19 transmission.  Allen explained the hierarchy of controls and the top priority for proper building ventilation is to bring in fresh outdoor air followed by air exhaust, dilution and finally filtration in order of importance. You can find the slides from the presentation here. For more information on building ventilation, please use the links from the last slide in the presentation. More than 40 people attended this webinar.

September 28, 2021: OSHA’s ETS & Guidance for Mitigating & Preventing Spread of COVID-19

This episode we hosted OSHA’s Region 2 Steve Kaplan, Deputy Regional Administrator, Laura Kenny, Assistant Regional Administrator for Technical Support, and Warren Simpson, Assistant Regional Administrator for Enforcement Programs who gave us insight into the updated COVID-19 guidelines for all workers and details about the Emergency Temporary Standard for Healthcare Workers.  Assistant Regional Administrator for Technical Support Warren Simpson informed us, “over 50% of all COVID related citations in the U.S came from Region 2 of OSHA”.  You can find the slides from the presentation here. For more information on OHSA, ETS and their enforcement efforts, please use the following links from their webpage.   More than 40 people attended this webinar.

  1. ETS (regulatory text) – https://www.osha.gov/coronavirus/ets
  2. Summary Data for Federal and State Programs – Enforcement – https://www.osha.gov/enforcement/covid-19-data
September 21, 2021: The Latest Science on the Virus and Vaccines with NJ Department of Health Expert

After a 5-month hiatus, the COVID-19 Weekly Update returned on September 21 in response to the rise of the Delta variant, the emergence of breakthrough cases, and the increasing number of cases in children which have set us back into uncertain waters as we enter the autumn season when people will be spending more time indoors. This week received an update from Dr. Meg Fisher from the NJ Department of Health about the latest science on COVID-19, including transmissibility and vaccine efficacy as well as an update on where things are currently in NJ in terms of cases, vaccines, and possible next steps such as booster shots. Here is Dr. Fisher’s presentation. More than 82 people attended this webinar.

May 18, 2021: Update on COVID-19 Vaccines and the NJ Vaccine Distribution Program

Over 8 million shots have been administered in NJ with approximately 3.5 million people having received the two doses needed to provide maximum protection. Eligibility has recently been expanded to include everyone above the age of 16, and the Pfizer vaccine is now approved to be administered to children aged 12-15. 

Supply has vastly improved as demand for the vaccine has diminished. The state has further ramped up its outreach efforts in order to reach the goal to vaccinate 4.7 million adults.   

We were joined by Dr. Eddy Bresnitz, MD, NJDOH Medical Advisor, Professional Advisory Committee Chair, and public health physician with board certification in internal, pulmonary and preventive (occupational/environmental) medicine. Dr. Bresnitz is former NJ State Epidemiologist and Deputy Commissioner of Health. Dr. Bresnitz spoke to the latest CDC recommendations and provided information for the Moderna, Pfizer and Janssen vaccines.

Dr. David J. Adinaro, MD, M.Eng., FACEP, joined the New Jersey Department of Health as Deputy Commissioner for Public Health Services in June 2020. He also chairs the COVID-19 Vaccine Task Force that is coordinating the planning for this state-wide effort. 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.

PowerPoint presentations can be found here for Dr. Adinaro and Dr. Bresnitz.

April 27, 2021: Workers Memorial Day - The Toll of Covid-19

This week, in our last regularly scheduled episode, we observed Workers’ Memorial Day and the deadly toll that COVID19 took on workers this past year. We heard from co-workers, community leaders and labor leaders who paid tribute to fallen workers and their families. We were joined by:

  • Yadhira Alvarez, Chief of Staff for the Laundry, Distribution and Food Service Joint Board (LDFS Union), Workers United, SEIU
  • Lou Kimmel, Executive Director, New Labor
  • Tiffany Beavers-Busby, RN in the medical intensive care unit at Jersey Shore University Medical Center in Neptune, NJ and a Vice President of HPAE Local 5058

Our guests spoke to the horrible toll COVID19 took on their communities and workplaces, the stunning failure of our federal government in responding to the crisis at the behest of hospital lobbyists seeking to cut their losses and accountability, the importance of belonging to a labor union in times of crisis for workers, and why we must continue to march and observe Worker Memorial Day until we can go an entire year without a single worker death. 

Tiffany shared this important perspective with us: 

"The inescapable fact is that our employers needlessly exposed Frontline Healthcare Workers to the COVID-19 virus, lagged in informing us of exposures, including from co-workers. Then, the New Jersey Hospital Association lobbied to water down a law that would make hospitals collect and reveal data on workplace exposure of healthcare workers to the virus, including exposure that led to sickness or death. The net effect of that is that we know many healthcare workers were exposed, got infected and became sick from the virus but the total impact of that is a mystery because that data is not being revealed."

WEC, Rutgers LEARN, and Jersey Renews will continue to sponsor webinars on important COVID-related issues as they arise, however the series will no longer offer episodes on a regular weekly basis.

April 20, 2021: COVID-19 and the New Housing Crisis

Today’s webinar explored how COVID-19 has worsened a pre-existing housing crisis in New Jersey, what protections exist for New Jerseyans struggling to pay rent, and what policies we need to prevent post-pandemic evictions and guarantee secure, affordable housing for all.

Eric Seymour, Assistant Professor of Urban Planning and Policy Development at Rutgers’ Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy, shared context on the relationship between income loss throughout the pandemic -- particularly severe for those employed in the service sector -- and inability to make rental payments. Recent research showed that New Jersey tenants indicated the highest rate nationwide of “no confidence” in their ability to pay monthly rent -- a result of both COVID-19 and the long-term impact of recession-era foreclosures and prohibitively high housing costs. 

Prof. Seymour’s research in other states indicates that New Jersey is at risk of a wave of evictions following the end of the current eviction moratorium, which could be exacerbated by the entry of more large, private equity-backed landlords into the state housing market. See Prof. Seymour’s presentation for further information informed by his research, including a set of graphs and visuals illustrating the relationship between COVID-19, race and class, and recent developments in housing insecurity. 

Staci Berger, President and CEO of the Housing and Community Development Network of New Jersey, offered comprehensive information on protections and resources currently available to NJ homeowners and renters who are struggling to afford payments. Staci explained that the state-level eviction moratorium, slated to last for 60 days after the pandemic’s end, offers stronger and more reliable protection than the federal CDC moratorium -- tenants are not required to take any action or provide any documentation in order to be legally safe from eviction. Any eviction notice filed by a landlord will not be legally executed, and any attempt to remove tenants by force, threat or any other means is illegal.

Staci also shared an update on the COVID Emergency Rental Assistance Program (or CVERAP), a lottery-based financial assistance program for tenants struggling to afford monthly rent payments. The program’s first round was weighted to prioritize tenants with the highest level of need. The second round is now open on a rolling basis, so any renter in need of assistance can apply. 

Staci encouraged renters and homeowners in need of financial, legal or other resources to visit housinghelpnj.org, where you can find housing counseling for renters (with language interpretation available), resource guides in English and Spanish, and information on a range of state programs including utility assistance, emergency warming centers and more. You can also text “Housing Help” to 313131. Check Staci’s slides for more resources!

Today’s conversation finished with a few timely policy updates to prevent post-pandemic evictions and win just housing practices in the long term. The People’s Bill (A4034), which has passed the state Assembly and is now in the Senate, would establish that no renter or homeowner should be removed, have their credit damaged or lose their ability to find a home in the future because of the pandemic. Staci also stressed the importance of safeguarding the Affordable Housing Trust Fund and eliminating the diversions proposed this budget season. At the local and county level, Staci encouraged participants to advocate for land banks like that recently launched in Newark, which gives the community agency in development and housing decisions.

March 30, 2021: COVID, Immigration Status, and Hazardous Working Conditions 

This week's webinar focused on how COVID-19 has impacted undocumented workers, the risks that undocumented workers face when they organize against unsafe conditions, and how workers are fighting back despite threats of retaliation. 

Vineeta Kapahi, Policy Analyst with NJ Policy Perspective, offered context for why COVID-19 has hit undocumented New Jerseyans particularly hard. Undocumented workers make up a large portion of the workforce in industries deemed essential during the pandemic, and many have been forced to work in unsafe conditions, particularly in sectors already governed by poor or poorly enforced labor protections such as farmwork and warehousing due to fear of retaliation by employers.  

Rosanna Rodríguez, Co-Executive Director of the Laundry Workers Center - a grassroots, member led organization that advocates for low-wage immigrant workers in New York and New Jersey - shared a current example of how workers are standing up to threats of retaliation. Rosanna shared that the multinational packing and paper company MondiGroup refused to follow COVID-19 protocols at its NJ facilities, leading to many COVID-19 cases and two worker deaths last April. When workers demanded protections, MondiGroup fired 18 people with an average of 22 years at the company. These workers approached Laundry Workers Center, which is now supporting their fight for compensation and recognition of the right to refuse unsafe work.

March 16, 2021: COVID-19 and Paid Time Off for New Jersey Workers

We were joined by guests from the Center for Women and Work at Rutgers SMLR and the New Jersey Citizen Action Education Fund to learn about how paid time off intersects with community health and well-being – and worker health and safety – and where and when the NJ policies can be applied. Debra Lancaster from the Center for Women and Work summarized the body of research on the benefits of paid family and sick leave, including addressing gender and racial disparities as well as improving health outcomes and work-family balance. Yarrow Willman-Cole from NJ Citizen Action gave an overview of the overlapping web of job protections available at the national and state level and income replacement programs available at just the state level. They outlined current state and federal laws that make most employees in New Jersey eligible for Temporary Disability and Family Leave insurance (TDI/FLI), and discussed the positive impact these protections have for everyone, but especially for marginalized communities and women highlighting among other points: Longer leaves among new mothers is associated with fewer depressive symptoms; When new fathers take paid leave, they are more likely to be engaged caretakers; Lower odds of infants being re-hospitalized when paid leave is available to parents; and Decreased participation in public assistance among both men and women.

New Jersey is just one of a handful of States that offers more than one pathway for workers to take paid time off to care for themselves or loved ones. The speakers proved a wealth of resources which can be accessed in the here and via the links below that were shared in the chat. The CWW also invited participants to join their ongoing research to understand what barriers there may be to taking paid leave in NJ – for more information email: dlancaster@smlr.rutgers.edu.


“Paid Family Leave Ensures Health Equity for All”: https://www.changelabsolutions.org/product/paid-family-leave-ensures-health-equity-all

“COVID-19 Emergency Sick Leave Has Helped Flatten the Curve in the US”: https://www.healthaffairs.org/doi/10.1377/hlthaff.2020.00863

“Pressure builds for companies to provide paid time off to get vaccinated”: https://tinyurl.com/3c6m8hkj

March 9, 2021: One Year of the COVID-19 Series: Lessons Learned & Looking Forward 

This week Todd Vachon, faculty coordinator of Rutgers, Learn, Debra Coyle McFadden, Executive Director, WEC, and Cecelia Gilligan Leto, Program Director, WEC reflected on the weekly webinar episodes they have developed and hosted over the past year. Through those webinars, they were joined by 97 guest speakers and more than 4,000 attendees tuned in.

Other speakers included: Barry Kushiner, President, IFPTE Local 194 who stated that “the webinars provided a hub of free resources which was very helpful.” Kushiner also expressed how wonderful it was to be able to collaborate with other organizations on this issue. Marcia Kleinz, UniServ Field Rep. Region 29, NJEA, spoke about how she was able to use the tools and ideas from the weekly webinars to support solidarity among members. She felt that “regardless of the topic, there was something I could take back.” And Nancy Miller, Membership Assistant Program Coordinator, UFCW Local 1262 said the webinars helped her focus and get “clear” on each issue and she has utilized many resources from the episodes. 

As we move forward, hope is growing with vaccines reaching the arms of more and more NJ residents each day. However, we must proceed with caution as we are not out of the woods yet. Mask wearing and social distancing are still critical as well as getting information from reputable sources. And, we must remember, even once the virus is finally gone, we will still be left to organize and pick up the pieces. It will take a long time for those who lost loved ones, jobs, are in financial crisis, still suffering the lasting effects of COVID-19 to recover from this devastating pandemic --and, it will take all of us to make that happen.

March 2, 2021: Collective Bargaining & COVID-19

Today, two experienced labor representatives and collective bargainers -- Peter Dooley, Industrial Hygienist with National COSH, and Jim Howe, President of Safety Solutions -- facilitated an interactive workshop on best practices for collective bargaining in the age of COVID-19. 

Peter and Jim have compiled a shared Google Doc with collaborative notes from our session and a comprehensive set of instructional resources and sample documents that cover pre-planning and information gathering ahead of the bargaining process, writing effective proposals, and bargaining itself. Participants are invited to reach out to Peter (peter@nationalcosh.org) or Jim (mhowe55@gmail.com) to request editable copies of any of these documents for use in their own workplaces.  

Some take-away points from Peter and Jim: 

  • It’s important to have worker engagement in the collective bargaining process. The more your demands are based on what workers want, the more powerful they will be to management. 
  • There are tremendous opportunities to gain improvements in Health and Safety issues through bargaining with employers. It’s important for H&S representatives to help the union or worker organizations recognize and realize these improvements. 
  • The bargaining process in health and safety should be happening all the time with the employer. The most important part of the process is to have any agreements or processes documented so improvements can be made over time. 
  • Health and safety have been -- and in the era of COVID, continue to be -- a tremendous opportunity for workers to have a say in their workplace and build solidarity. This will only be realized through intentional organizing and practice to influence the status quo of all institutions, including the creation of written agreements.
February 23, 2021: COVID-19 Vaccines and the NJ Vaccine Distribution Program

Today we heard from two public health experts helping to guide the planning and execution of New Jersey’s COVID-19 vaccination program. Dr. Eddy Bresnitz, Medical Advisor to the NJ Department of Health and chair of the state’s Professional Advisory Committee, began by summarizing what New Jerseyans need to know about the two available FDA authorized vaccines (Pfizer and Moderna mRNA), including the following: 

  • Both vaccines are approximately 95% effective. 
  • Adolescents ages 16 and 17 are eligible to receive the Pfizer Biotech vaccine. 
  • It is not yet known how well the vaccine prevents COVID-19 transmission, so those vaccinated should still mask, social distance and take other measures to protect others. 
  • The vaccine’s durability is not yet known - it may require booster doses. 
  • The vaccine may be administered to people with underlying conditions who have no contraindications to vaccination. Those who are immunocompromised or have autoimmune disorders should consult with their doctor before vaccination.

Dr. Bresnitz also provided an update on New Jersey’s tiers for priority vaccination: in Tier 1A, which includes those working or volunteering in healthcare with potential for direct or indirect exposure and all residents and workers of long-term care facilities, “everyone who wants a vaccine has gotten one.” Those now eligible in Tier 1B include all first responders, individuals 65+, and those ages 16-64 with medical conditions that increase risk of severe illness, including individuals who are pregnant or immunocompromised. Those eligible next under tier 1C will include other essential workers and other individuals at high risk, before availability is expanded to the general population under Phase 2.  

Dr. David Adinaro, Deputy Commissioner of Public Health Services at the NJ Department of Health, shared the latest information on statewide vaccine distribution and progress toward the state’s vaccination goals. He shared the following resources: 

Dr. Adinaro stressed that the vaccine’s success depends on all of our participation. He asked that every New Jerseyan help in the following ways: 

  • Even after you have been vaccinated, continue practicing safeguarding measures such as masking and social distancing. 
  • Support eligible organization members considering vaccination through policies such time off, paid sick leave and childcare.
  • Seek out and share educational materials, including relevant information on where to get vaccinated if eligible
  • ... and, once you are eligible, get vaccinated! 

More detail on the latest vaccine recommendations is included in Dr. Bresnitz and Adinaro’s attached presentations. You can also hear more from Dr. Bresnitz on this recent NJ DOH podcast about vaccine safety.

February 9, 2021: An Agenda for Worker Safety and Health - Covid and Beyond 

This week were joined by Marcy Goldstein-Gelb, Co-Director, National COSH and Al Vega, Director Policy and Programs and Vice Chair of National COSH Board of Directors, who discussed the National Council for Occupational Safety and Health’s (National COSH) eight-point National Agenda for Worker Safety and Health, developed with more than 100 labor and community-based organizations. 

Marcy outlined the devastating increase in mortality COVID-19 has brought to workers, and the enormous disparity in mortality between white and black and latino workers. She emphasized that COVID-19 is not just a workplace hazard, but a hazard for our entire community. It is critical that workers are protected from not just COVID-19, but from all hazards and retaliation from employers for speaking up about them.   

Al elaborated on conditions for workers on the ground and stressed the importance of setting a baseline of safety at the federal level, instead of leaving it up to state governments to decide whether or not workers have a right to be safe in their workplace.  

The presentation about the National Agenda can be found here.

February 2, 2021: Public Health, Worker Safety, and Transit Equity During Covid 

This week our discussion focused on the issue of public transportation. Hundreds of thousands of commuters and thousands of transportation workers rely on the New Jersey public transportation system for transit and for income, but they also risk exposure to the virus by spending extended time in closed spaces with a high volume of interpersonal contact. The system is also facing economic challenges due to reduced ridership as a result of business shutdowns and telecommuting measures, creating a threat to the viability of the system which could have tremendous social justice and equity implications for low-income workers in the state. We also discussed Transit Equity Day on February 4 – a national day of action to commemorate the birthday of Rosa Parks by declaring that public transit is a civil right. 

Our speakers this week included: Corey Gallman, Recording Secretary of Amalgamated Transit Union, NJ State Council representing workers on NJ Transit more than 2,000 buses, Jerome C. Johnson, General Chairman/President of Smart-TD Local 60, representing the Conductors and Assistant Conductors at NJ Transit - the largest union on the rail side at NJ Transit, and Janna Chernetz, Deputy Director & Director of New Jersey Policy, Tri-State Transportation Campaign working on regional transportation issues.

January 26, 2021: A Conversation with State Epidemiologist, Dr. Tina Tan 

This week we were joined by Dr. Tina Tan, MD, MPH, State Epidemiologist and Assistant Commissioner of the Division of Epidemiology, Environmental and Occupational Health at the New Jersey Department of Health, where she oversees program areas in general communicable disease surveillance and control, immunizations, environmental and occupational health, and cancer epidemiology.  

Dr. Tan traced the origin of the virus outbreak in the US and NJ, contextualizing the virus's history thus far and challenges in tracing and managing the outbreak for both the state and the nation. She covered our shift from a state of emergency, to the cancellation of mass gatherings and school closures, to the stay-at-home order. She also spoke about our cultural shift towards social distancing and using masks and hygiene to combat the virus. 

She detailed the strain the first wave had on our healthcare systems, discussed the second wave and its peaks, and discussed challenges for local agencies in regard to contact tracing and capacity. 

Here is Dr. Tan's presentation

January 19, 2021: Impact of COVID-19 on NJ Long-Term Care

This week we covered the effect of COVID-19 on long-term care facilities, which have been ground zero for viral outbreaks. As the pandemic has ravaged senior communities across the country and frontline healthcare workers have faced PPE shortages, the federal government has offered weak and inconsistent aid to beleaguered nursing homes. 

To discuss the ongoing impact of the pandemic on long-term care, we were joined by Matte Kane, Union Representative, UFCW 152, Kendra Bass, LPN, United Steelworkers Local 406 Recording Secretary, and Phillis Shivers, District 1199J, National Union of Hospital and Health Care Employees, AFSCME, AFL-CIO.

Our guests spoke to the unique workplace risks that long term care facility workers face, as well as to the challenges of organizing and ensuring that workers’ voices are heard in a world where face-to-face connection is limited. The conversation ended with a productive exploration of ways we can overcome collective barriers to organizing in the COVID era. 

Center for Disease Control: How COVID-19 Spreads

January 12, 2021: Exploring Public Health Efforts to Test, Monitor, and Contact Trace COVID-19 Infections

In addition to mask wearing and social distancing, tracking and intervening to reduce further exposure is an effective way to reduce the spread of COVID-19. This week we will be joined by public health experts, local health officers, and contact tracers to learn about the process of identifying, monitoring, and supporting individuals who may have been exposed to a person with COVID-19. 

Guest Speakers this week included Betsy Marshall, PhD, Epidemiologist, Rutgers School of Public Health, Paschal Nwako, PhD, MPH, County Health Officer & Public Health Coordinator, Camden County NJ, and Lindsay Berg and Alisa Fatima, Contact Tracer Supervisors, Mercer County NJ.

December 22, 2020: A COVID Year in Review

This week we rounded out the year with a panel of guests who helped us understand how COVID-19 has affected their members in 2020, new challenges we face as we head into the second wave, and the steps workers, unions, and advocates need to take in 2021 to ensure a safe, healthy year for everyone. 

Debbie White, President, Health Professionals and Allied Employees, AFT spoke to the lack of employer reporting on COVID-19 cases and the dangers HPAE’s members face as a result, and on bills that HPAE has campaigned on to change that. Nancy Miller, Membership Assistance Program Coordinator, UFCW Local 1262 spoke to the need for consistent campaigning and organizing to win hazard pay and health and safety concessions as COVID-19 has waxed and waned in cases over the past year. Michael Rollins, Field Representative - Organizational Development, NJEA spoke to NJEA’s emphasis on communication with members and the importance of critical partnerships this year in maintaining health and safety on the ground, and who also highlighted the dedicated work of our schools’ Education Service Professionals (ESPs). And Barry Kushnir, President, IFPTE Local 194, and Hudson County Central Labor Council, spoke to the organizing efforts of his members and their challenges this past year, and who emphasized the critical importance of organizing in coalition and across silos, highlighting the importance of understanding the ways in which all workers are connected in this struggle.

December 15, 2020: The State of the State: COVID-19 Q and A with the Governor’s Office, DOL, and DOH

As COVID cases continued to surpass Spring numbers, we heard from Deborah Cornavaca, Deputy Chief of Staff for Outreach, from Governor Murphy's office on actions NJ has taken and may take to slow the spread as well as discuss the prospect of a vaccine coming to NJ early in 2021.  We were also joined by Gillian Gutierrez, Director of Strategic Planning and Outreach, and Justin Baker, Chief of Occupational Health, from NJ Department of Labor and Workforce Development to examine the rollout and impact of the workers' protection order, Executive Order 192, and to answer participant’s questions.  Also on the line to answer questions were Gary Centifonti, Director of Consumer Environmental Occupational Health, New Jersey Department of Health and Christine Blumauer, Policy Advisor in the Commissioner’s Office with the New Jersey Department of Labor & Workforce Development.

December 8, 2020: Race, Class, and Covid

This week we were joined by Les Leopold, co-founder and Executive Director of the Labor Institute. Les, who is the author of several books on the financialization of the US Economy, including Runaway Inequality: An Activist’s Guide to Economic Justice, spoke to the role the ultra-rich, hedge funds and other financial institutions have played in exacerbating COVID-19’s impact, specifically on communities of color and poor communities. He covered the economic mechanisms these institutions use to extract wealth from our medical infrastructure, resulting in the severe lack of preparedness for public health disasters we are currently experiencing, and extreme inequalities in access to safe jobs, preventative care, and adequate treatment. 

Les emphasized organizing across silos, talking to people in our workplaces who we don’t agree with about our shared interest in fixing these inequities, and building a mass, popular movement for economic justice.

December 1, 2020: Tackling Covid-19 through Training and Health and Safety Committees

This week, we were joined by representatives from the Communication Workers of America, including Fran Ehret, CWA NJ National Staff Representative, Bill Bradley, CWA NJ Senior Campaign Lead, Jim McAsey, CWA NJ National Staff Representative, Keith Felder, Executive Vice President of CWA Local 1087, Trina Scordo, Executive Director of New Jersey Communities United, and Jon Worley, President of CWA Local 1084. 

The first two speakers discussed some of the educational and skills-building trainings the national health and safety committee has facilitated with over 350 rank-and-file H&S committee members from over 20 Locals in the public and private sectors in NJ. We also heard from local leaders about several successful collective efforts to win strong COVID health and safety measures in their workplaces. The message was clear: through education, organizing, and taking action, workers can improve the conditions in their workplaces. Over 100 participants joined the call. Resources can be found below.  

CWA NJ Presentation    

CWA New Jersey Health & Safety Toolkit  

November 17, 2020: NJ Executive Order 192 – What are the New COVID-19 Protections for Workers?

This week’s webinar focused on Executive Order (EO) 192 which Governor Murphy signed on October 28 and went into effect on November 5. The EO, one of the strongest in the country, mandates a series of COVID-19 protections for workers in both public and private sector employment settings. There were more than 97 people who attended this webinar. 

Lou Kimmel, Executive Director of New Labor who spoke to the success of  EO 192 after a six-month campaign by the Protect NJ Workers Coalition. The EO expands worker protections by requiring employers to establish social distancing protocols, provide masks and hand sanitizer at no cost to employees, develop a notification system for any known COVID workplace exposure, routinely clean and disinfect all high-touch areas in accordance with CDC and DOH guidelines, conduct health checks, and send home sick employees in compliance with applicable leave laws. 

We were also joined by Elena Lavarreda, NJ Political Director of 32BJ who spoke to the empowerment this EO has given their members. 32BJ is notifying all of the employers it works with about the requirements of the order, as well as educating its 6,000 members. “Grievance reps can help file complaints, support members and help provide education to other members,” said Lavarreda. 32BJ is also working on passing S2453/A4209 to secure COVID paid sick days. 

WEC Executive Director, Debra Coyle McFadden, joined us to discuss COVID training opportunities provided under the EO. 


DOL Worker Complaint Form private Sector

Worker Complaint Form public sector

COVID Training Sign Up

Full EO 192

November 10, 2020: Peg Seminaro, former Director of Occupational Safety and Health for the AFL-CIO

This week, we were joined by Peg Seminario, Former Director of Occupational Safety and Health for the AFL-CIO from 1990-2019. Peg talked about the failure of federal OSHA to protect workers from not issuing an emergency infectious disease standard to not requiring employers to report workplace COVID cases and the general lack of inaction in the early days. She also noted that neither the federal or state governments have established data collection systems to track COVID cases in the workplace. 

Recommendations she made for OSHA included issuing an infectious disease emergency standard, using the Illness and Injury Reporting and Record Keeping rule to report COVID cases in the workplace, and, most importantly, aggressively enforcing standards and protections for workers that are already in place. She also emphasized the important role of educating and empowering workers and how local communities can come together to demand change. 

October 27, 2020: The Importance of Reporting: Filing an Effective Complaint

Today Ellie Barbarash, Health and Safety Coordinator for Health Professionals and Allied Employees, drew upon her experience and long track record of filing successful OSHA complaints. 

With changing CDC COVID guidance and no OSHA standard for infectious disease, Ellie identified five health and safety areas relevant to COVID exposure including respiratory protection, PPE, hazard communication, recordkeeping, and, depending on the circumstances, bloodborne pathogens. Ellie talked us through collecting worker exposure stories, collecting information, identifying witnesses, composing and submitting a complaint. Ellie acknowledged that an effective complaint is labor-intensive. However, doing your homework and filing a detailed complaint does significantly increase the likelihood of success -- Ellie herself has filed more than a dozen complaints during the pandemic that have resulted in a citation. 


Additional resources: 

Ellie’s PowerPoint presentation 

HPAE’s Exposed and At-Risk report 

HuffPost article: “Workers tried to blow the whistle on COVID. Then people died.”

October 20, 2020: How Prepared are We for a Second Wave? Lessons Learned and Challenges Still Ahead in Healthcare

This week we were joined by Debbie White, RN, President of HPAE, who recapped the horror, confusion, and trauma of the first wave of COVID for patients and healthcare workers, while outlining how we can best be prepared to avoid the same issues during a second wave of COVID.  

She emphasized the importance of worker voices in pandemic preparedness and how labor unions can lead in fighting to improve health and safety protocols to protect workers and patients. She also elaborated on bills the New Jersey legislature has passed, because of strong organizing from workers, including: Workers Compensation – Presumptive Eligibility (S.2380/A.3999), COVID-19 Racial Data  Tracker (S.2357/A.3943), and Healthcare Worker Exposure Data (S.2384/A4129). 

Here is Debbie White’s PowerPoint presentation

October 6, 2020: Domestic Work, Workers Rights, and Covid-19

Many labor laws passed in the New Deal area explicitly excluded domestic workers. Today, protections that have been legally guaranteed in most occupational sectors for nearly a century are still denied to those who do perhaps the most essential work of all: raising our children, caring for our family members, and keeping our homes clean and healthy. Our panelists explained how, as COVID-19 shines a spotlight on the precarious conditions of domestic work, the current moment presents both new urgency and new opportunity to confront institutionalized racism and sexism and win long-overdue protections for this essential yet excluded workforce. 

Debra LancasterExecutive Director at Rutgers’ Center for Women and Work , Elaine Zundl, and recent co-authors of Domestic Workers in New Jersey, kicked off our panel with a synopsis of the report’s findings. The report incorporates the direct experiences of over 400 domestic workers, compiled through a survey developed by workers’ advocacy organizations and executed by workers within their communities. Their needs are reflected in the principles of a Domestic Workers’ Bill of Rights, which New Labor community organizer Jenifer Garcia broke down for us. Key principles include the elimination of legal exclusions, health and safety safeguards for private homes, portable benefits systems that multiple employers can pay into, and state reforms to worker’s compensation law that ensure all domestic workers are covered.  

Tatiana Bejar, New York City Organizer with Hand in Hand Domestic Employers’ Network, shared lessons and resources from another front of the domestic workers’ rights movement -- mobilizing employers in support of the workers they hire and depend on. All speakers emphasized that COVID-19 calls for additional action by both employers and policymakers. Virgilio Aran of the National Domestic Workers’ Alliance pointed out that many domestic workers are undocumented and therefore ineligible for unemployment. In the past six months, some advocacy groups have also coordinated mutual aid, distributing food and raising funds for unemployed domestic workers. 

Debra Lancaster closed our conversation with a question: “What might a caring recovery look like?” To join the fight for a domestic workers’ Bill of Rights and the right to refuse unsafe work, visit the National Domestic Workers’ Alliance and New Labor websites. You can also reach out to Virgilio Aran directly at virgilio@domesticworkers.org.

If you employ a cleaner, nanny, home health aide or other care worker in your home, join other employers in the Hand in Hand program to learn and take action in solidarity with domestic workers. Register with the portable benefits system Alia to directly pay into health insurance and other benefits for your employee! With questions about employment practices, reach out to Tatiana at tatiana@domesticemployers.org.

Other resources:

September 29, 2020: Building Ventilation and Minimizing Exposure to Covid-19

This week's webinar focused on the fundamentals of building ventilation, including important steps that can be taken in your workplace to reduce COVID-19 transmission. 

We were joined by David M. Newman, M.A., M.S. EOHS Associates LLC Environmental & Occupational Health & Safety Industrial Hygiene and a consultant to WEC. Dave stressed that while it is impossible to make buildings “safe” during the COVID crisis, we can reduce the risk of contracting the virus by utilizing a number of “tools” such as proper physical distancing, masking, PPE, cleaning and disinfecting, contact tracing, and adequate ventilation. Here is Dave's slide presentation.

September 22, 2020: Disaster Preparedness During a Pandemic

Two experts joined us today to advise on what climate impacts New Jersey is experiencing and should anticipate, as well as to offer tips on how we can prepare our families and communities for extreme weather events while staying as safe as possible from COVID. Dr. Anthony Broccoli, Co-Director of the Rutgers Climate Institute, offered an overview of the main weather changes triggered by climate change and which of these trends New Jersey should prepare for. Click here for powerpoint presentation. This context helped to frame Keith Adams’ presentation on his work as Executive Director of NJ Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (VOAD), a coalition of organizations focused on developing and sustaining community resilience after disasters. Keith shared a set of general guidelines for disaster preparedness, then spoke to the unique challenges of preparedness during a pandemic, including factors such as housing and food insecurity, the infeasibility of shelters with social distancing, and the potential for multiple waves of the virus. Click here for powerpoint presentation.

September 15, 2020: Worker Health = Public Health During a Pandemic

This week we were joined by Peter Dooley (MS, CIH, CSP) Safety and Health Senior Project Coordinator for National COSH and President of LaborSafe, who spoke about the importance of health and safety organizing, and its connection to broader public health issues, in building worker power. He went on to discuss national COSH’s historical work around these issues through community RIght to Know campaigns around the country. We were also joined by George T. DeFerdinando, Jr., MD, MPH, FACP, Chair of the Princeton NJ Board of Health and on the Executive Committee of the New Jersey Local Boards of Health Association, who spoke about some of the challenges workers face in regards to COVID19 and air quality, and the importance of enforcement in regards to state action. Finally, Rosanna Rodriguez, Laundry Workers Center (LWC) founder, organizer, and key developer in LWC’s workplace justice and policy programs, training institute, and women’s leadership committee, spoke about the LWC’s efforts to organize workers in the face of the COVID19 crisis.  

All three presenters emphasized the importance of worker organizing and power, and issues of health and safety, in light of the COVID19 crisis, as a key area of solidarity among workers from different political backgrounds. There were more than 71 participants on this webinar.

September 1, 2020: Labor Day Celebration & The Importance of Worker’s Voice During the Age of COVID

We were joined by acclaimed labor activist Elise Bryant, Executive Director of the Labor Heritage Foundation and President of the Coalition of Labor Union Women. Elise shared that one in three jobs categorized as essential are held by women. She spoke about how women have held multiple rolls during the pandemic and shared that Black and Latina women have suffered the largest job loss and biggest pay gap. Sadly, domestic abuse has also skyrocketed during this time as well. Ms. Bryant stated that this is the time for the women’s communities to come alive, engage and to organize. Many resources can be found at the Coalition of Labor Union Women website. Elise shared with us, “this is a time where people are recognizing that we are stronger collectively than we are individually”. Please visit the links that Elyse shared during the webinar: Coalition of Labor Union Women and Labor Heritage Foundation.

August 25, 2020: This Week’s Update: A Conversation with Deborah Cornavaca

This week Deborah Cornavaca, Deputy Chief of Staff, Office of the Governor, State of New Jersey joined us to give an update on the Governor’s response to COVID-19 and answer questions. Deborah spoke about the Governor’s proposed budget, which has significant cuts compared to the budget that was presented in March due to the economic crisis caused by COVID-19.

August 18, 2020: Mental Wellbeing and Coping with Stress During COVID-19

This week we discussed how stress during the COVID-19 crisis can affect your mental health and the wellbeing of your family, friends, work colleagues and community.

We were joined by Ashlee Fitch, Director, United Steelworkers’ Tony Mazzocchi Training Center, who discussed the importance of recognizing different kinds of stress, stressful and life-altering events, symptoms of mental health problems and post-traumatic stress disorder.

We were also joined by Tracy F.H. Chang, Ph.D., M.B.A., Associate Professor, School of Management and Labor Relations, Rutgers University, who discussed ways in which workers can equip themselves to deal with the stresses of modern workplaces, especially under COVID19.

August 11, 2020: State-Level Action on COVID-19 Worker Protection

This week’s topic addressed State-Level Action on Covid-19 Worker Protections. As the federal government continues to shirk its responsibility to protect workers, advocates across the country have turned their attention to states and local municipalities to demand action. Many states, like NJ, currently only have executive orders regarding COVID-19 which are very difficult to enforce and provide little to no worker protection.

We welcomed Debbie Berkowitz, Worker Health & Safety Program Director, National Employment Law Project who has deep legal and policy expertise and works on and promotes policies that improve workers’ lives.

We were also joined by Jason Yarashes, Lead Attorney and Program Coordinator, Virginia Justice Project for Farm and Immigrant Workers works to address the systems which keep people impoverished, and by Lou Kimmel, Executive Director, New Labor, which is working with partners in the NJ Work and Safety coalition on a worker health and safety council and training safety liaisons in NJ. 

August 4, 2020: Dr. David Michaels on OSHA’s Response and Protecting Workers from COVID-19

This week we spent the hour with Dr. David Michaels, epidemiologist, professor and former Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA under the Obama Administration. Much of Dr. Michaels’ work has focused on protecting the integrity of the science underpinning public health, safety and environmental protections. He is the author of Doubt is Their Product: How Industry’s Assault on Science Threatens Your Health and The Triumph of Doubt: Dark Money and the Science of Deception. It couldn’t be a more relevant moment to hear from Dr. Michaels, as public health guidance in our country is politicized and health experts and policymakers face backlash for advocating for sufficient protections.

July 28, 2020: Revenue, Services, and Equity: State Budget Challenges in the Era of Covid-19

This week’s topic addressed our state’s preexisting issues with equity, taxation, and funding, and how those issues have been deepened by the COVID-19 crisis.

Brandon McKoy, President at New Jersey Policy Perspective, spoke on New Jersey’s state tax policy’s direct link to issues of equity, and how the Covid-19 crisis has impacted working class communities and communities of color most aggressively.

Brandon Castro, Campaign Organizer and the Work Environment Council, touched on public banking as a way for the state to reassess its values and to invest directly in Covid-19 relief, racial justice, environmental justice, and good paying jobs.

July 21, 2020: Protecting and Celebrating Facility and Manufacturing Workers During Covid-19

This week’s topic, Protecting and Celebrating Facility and Manufacturing Workers During Covid-19 welcomed a panel of guests who represent property service, essential manufacturing, and facility operations workers who have worked hard to keep public and private buildings functional during the pandemic.

Aaron Jones and Carla Thomas, Service Employees International Union, Local 32BJ (SEIU); Mike Fisher, Sub-District Director, United Steelworkers (USW); and Frank James, Financial Secretary, International Union of Operating Engineers, Local 68 (IUOE) spoke to the occupational safety and health challenges confronting workers during the COVID-19 health crisis.

July 14, 2020: Student Health, Worker Safety, and Funding Challenges for Higher Education in a COVID-19 World

This week’s topic focused on student and worker safety in the tumultuous and ever-changing landscape of higher education. We heard from three inspiring women who have been organizing higher education faculty and staff across departments and sectors for conditions where every single worker can work safe and receive just compensation.

Christine O’Connell, President of the Union of Rutgers Administrators (URAAFT), began our panel with the story of the Rutgers Coalition of Unions, a network of all unions representing Rutgers employees which formed to help workers support one another across union lines. Rebecca Kolins Givan, Vice President of the Rutgers AAUP-AFT and Associate Professor of Labor Studies and Employment Relations at Rutgers shared her experience organizing alongside Christine with the Rutgers Coalition of Unions and spoke about ways in which unions can bargain for the common good. Marcia Kleinz, higher education field representative for NJEA, explained funding challenges faced by many New Jersey colleges and current organizing to make sure that cuts do not fall on the backs of workers.

June 30, 2020: Update on the Updates

For this week’s episode, Update on the Updates, we checked back in with several of our previous webinar participants for a roundtable discussion. We were joined by Marcia Kleinz, Field representative for Higher Education, NJEA, Barry Kushnir, President, IFPTE Local 194, and Hudson County Central Labor Council and Nancy Miller, membership assistance program coordinator, UFCW Local 1262. They gave updates on the continued challenges COVID-19 presents for their members in higher education, Turnpike toll takers and retail..

We also wished Mike Merrill, PH.D, director at Rutgers LEARN a happy retirement, and heard touching stories about Mike’s career from a few colleagues. Mike stressed the importance of continued labor education and the importance of forums like this to bring workers and community members together to have conversations and learn from each other. Thank you, Professor Merrill and best of luck to you! 

June 23, 2020: Working Parents Need Child Care: An Update on the Reopening

This week’s episode was also co-sponsored by the Center for Women and Work at Rutgers University.

Executive Director, Debra Lancaster, co-moderated a panel with the following speakers:

Meghan Tavormina, President of the New Jersey Association for the Education of Young Children and the Executive Director of the Learning Path in Chatham.

Cynthia Rice, an attorney and Senior Policy Analyst with the Advocates for Children of New Jersey works with local, state, and federal leaders to identify and implement changes that will benefit New Jersey’s children. Ms. Rice spoke of the uncertainty concerning the access and availability of childcare. 

Dr. Beverly Lynn, CEO of Programs for Parents, the largest childcare and resource and referral agency in the State of New Jersey.

In addition, we also received an update from Trina Scordo, Executive Director of NJ Communities United of their organization’s partnership with CWA 1037 on childcare issues to assist some of the most vulnerable families and to work with childcare providers to increase the grassroots organizing work needed to ensure health and safety for all.

June 16, 2020: Public Health, Worker Safety, and Funding Challenges for Public Transportation in a COVID-19 World

This week’s COVID-19 update focused on the NJ public transit system which puts hundreds of thousands of commuters and thousands of transportation workers at risk for sustained, exposure to the coronavirus and other pathogens, and what is needed to reduce risk.

We had the opportunity to hear from Nick Sifuentes, Executive Director of Tri-State Transportation Campaign and he spoke about what riders need to feel safe in order to continue to use public transportation and how to help make public transportation as safe and effective as possible during the pandemic.

Our second panelist, Orlando Riley, Chairman, Amalgamated Transit Union, NJ State Council gave insight into issues surrounding workers on their over 2000 buses and some of the steps that have been taken to increase protections. We also heard from Jerome Johnson, General Chairman of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail, and Transport (SMART) Local 60 (United Transportation Union [UTU]) who spoke to the need for a public campaign to support health and safety on public transportation. 

June 9, 2020: COVID, Social Distancing, and the Economy: What Can We Learn from the Swedish Experience

This week we were joined by Professor Aman Russom, head of the bionanotechnology division at the KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm, who works on the development and delivery of low-cost medical testing and technology for public health. Since March, Sweden has been functioning more or less the way New Jersey will function when it reopens.

Unlike the United States, Sweden never applied a total lockdown during COVID-19. Instead, relying heavily on voluntary stay at home protocols, hand-washing and recommended social distancing, Sweden focused on asking those who had even mild symptoms to stay at home and provided immediate income support to enable workers to do so. The authorities hoped thereby to prevent spread. Professor. Russom felt that Sweden’s approach had failed in regard to protecting the elderly, stating they should have done more to protect the elderly, and vulnerable populations, as 50 percent of those lost to COVID-19 were in eldercare.  Also, Sweden’s incidence of cases and death was much higher than their Nordic neighbors. The Swedish experience underscores the importance of being on guard for a resurgence of COVID as the state reopens.

June 2, 2020: The Impact of School Closings & The Challenges of Reopening

This week we were joined by 292 participants for an update which focused on K-12 schools. We discussed the impact of shutting schools down on teachers, staff, parents and students and the challenges of reopening our schools.

We were joined by Cary Booker, Assistant State Education Commissioner, State of New Jersey who acknowledged the sacrifices of educators and their families to meet the needs of their students. Assistant Commissioner Booker spoke to the inequities that plagued our education system long before COVID-19, their effect on remote instruction and food instability, and the state’s efforts to address them. 

Rosie Grant, Executive Director of the Paterson Education Foundation spoke to her organization’s efforts. Lack of internet and electronic devices have left many students behind in Paterson, 11,000 students still have no ability to access online learning. NJEA Organizational Development Field Representatives Michael Rollins and Robert Antonelli were joined by Bill Henning, Business Manager, OPEIU Local 32.  They spoke about the need for strong safety protocols to be in place to ensure that schools are safe and healthy for everyone as we look to reopen.

March 17, 2020: Coronavirus: Protecting and Educating Workers

Union, state and federal officials joined us for this webinar to give updates on COVID-19. There was an overview of what the Coronavirus is and how you can protect yourself; an update on actions that Governor Murphy is taking to protect the public; and an overview of the response from the Department of Labor and Workforce Development, the Department of Health, and a review of guidance issued from OSHA on protecting workers. More than 150 people participated in this webinar.

Speakers Included:

Deborah Cornavaca, Deputy Chief of Staff of Outreach for Governor Murphy

Robert Asaro-Angelo, Commissioner, NJ Department of Labor and Workforce Development

Chris Neuwirth, Assistant Commissioner, NJ Department of Health

Steve Kaplan, Deputy Regional Administrator, US-DOL, OSHA

Laura Kenny, Assistant Regional Administrator for Technical Support, US-DOL, OSHA presented Protecting Workers from 2019-nCoV

Barbara Rosen, Vice President and Nurse Educator, Health Professionals and Allied Employees presented Understanding Infectious Disease

May 26, 2020: Public Sector Employee Safety and Health in the Age of Covid

This week PEOSH (DOH and DLWD)  joined the call with a report on their activities. During the first 11 weeks of the emergency, the agency has received approximately 60 COVID-19 related complaints. During the emergency, it is not conducting onsite investigations. Instead, it relies on initial virtual investigations over the phone, with onsite follow-up visits as necessary. PEOSH affirmed that a COVID-19 case is OSHA-reportable, but only if it is work-related, of which there is no presumption. If whether a case is work-related is disputed, the burden of proof falls on the victim or their representatives. It is worth noting that there are only four PEOSH inspectors for the entire state. More than 200 people attended this webinar.

May 19, 2020: Workers’ Rights, Worker Safety and Workplace Justice

This week we were joined by more than 165 participants, who heard from 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.

May 12, 2020: Working Safer in Unsafe Times: What’s Happening in the Construction Industry and at Distribution Centers

This week, we welcomed a panel of guests who are organizing and representing workers deemed essential during the COVID-19 crisis. Anthony Abrantes, Organizing & Political Director for the Eastern Atlantic States Regional Council of Carpenters; Christian Smalls, an organizer and Former Warehouse Assistant Manager at Amazon; and Dave Hancock, Warehouse Campaign Director with the Laundry, Distribution and Food Service Joint Board, Workers United, SEIU. 

May 5, 2020: Worker and Community Health

This Week’s update was co-sponsored by the Center for Women and Work at Rutgers University and focused on family safety, health, and well-being. We were joined by 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 (housed within the Rutgers University School of Social Work) to discuss family wellbeing during COVID-19. More than 140 participants attended this webinar.

April 28, 2020: NJ Whistleblower Protections – what is says, what it doesn’t, and how to use it

This week’s update featured labor and employment attorneys Rosemarie Cipparulo and David Tykulsker discussing whistleblower protections in New Jersey, including the Conscientious Employees Protection Act (CEPA). 130 participants joined us for the discussion.

April 21, 2020: Questions and Answers with OSHA

Yana van der Meulen Rodgers, Director of The Center for Women and Work at Rutgers University spoke about a report she co-authored about the causes for PPE shortages in the U.S, Personal Protective Equipment Shortages during the COVID-19 Pandemic: Structural Weaknesses and a House on Fire.

We heard from Laura Kenny, Assistant Regional Administrator for Technical Support, US-DOL, OSHA and Steve Kaplan, Deputy Regional Administrator, US-DOL, OSHA about the importance of employers conducting risk assessments, how Executive Orders from the State of NJ are not enforceable by OSHA, and facemasks are not considered PPE. Since the COVID-19 crisis began the region has received approximately 600 complaints and conducted 55 fatality investigations. More than 220 participants joined the webinar.

April 12, 2020: Question & Answer Session with Deborah Cornavaca, Deputy Chief of Staff for Governor Murphy

For the third webinar in this series, we were honored to welcome Deborah Cornavaca, Deputy Chief of Staff for Governor Murphy. Ms. Cornavaca spent the entire hour with us for a virtual question and answer session regarding safety measures taken by Governor Murphy to prevent the spread of COVID19 including recently signed Executive Order 122 that requires certain essential businesses to take additional safety measures. We were also joined by over 175 participants who are putting in the work every day to fight this disaster - either on the frontlines or by social distancing at home.

April 7, 2020: Recap From the Front Lines: Heroism, Shortages and Best Practices

From the current shortage of PPE to the coming hospital bed shortage, we heard what it is like for employees to go to work during this pandemic. Some employers have not implemented or enforced social distancing guidelines or provided proper PPE, while other employers have enacted stronger safety and health measures. With over 100 attendees, we discussed best practices employers can implement, victories won by unions to improve worker protections, and what needs to be done to protect workers and their families. 

Darren A. Spielma, PhD, Executive Director of The Senator Walter Rand Institute for Public Affairs (WRI) at Rutgers-Camden and an author of Timing County Hospital Bed Shortfall during COVID-19.

Barbara Rosen, Nurse Educator, and Vice President of the Health Professionals and Allied Employees – AFT about Protecting those Who Care.

Helen Polizzi Ireland, Director of Community Affairs and Education, United Food and Commercial Workers Local 360 and UFCW Representative Michael O’Brien about the concerns and demands of grocery store workers.

Dave Hancock, Warehouse Campaign Director, Laundry, Distribution and Food Service Joint Board, Workers United, SEIU and warehouse worker Maria Ortiz about some Best Practices and Ongoing Concerns of Warehouse Workers.

Lou Kimmel, Executive Director, New Labor, a membership-based organization of mostly low-wage immigrant workers in New Jersey about the issues their members are facing in the face of Covid-19.

The COVID-19 Update Weekly Webinar Series is Co-sponsored by:


                                                              Work Environment Council




                                                              Jersey Renews