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CWA Members in New Jersey Hold Massive Health & Safety Training

Nearly 200 CWA District 1 stewards and Health and Safety workplace committee members in New Jersey participated in the third part of an eleven hour training course last week. The course was developed as a union approach to health and safety with the goal of educating members about the science of COVID-19 transmission, as well as how to get management to ensure a safe workplace.  The central theme of the training series: informed and mobilized union members are the source of our power to protect us from this deadly pandemic.

“Build power and build our union by uniting members around common interests," said Hetty Rosenstein, recently-retired NJ Area Director who saw the need to develop a robust H&S infrastructure as the pandemic started one year ago. 

Jessica Coffin, Local 1088 Mobilization Committee chair and steward, spoke about her members’ struggle to pressure management to resolve the COVID-related H&S issues at their county welfare agency. “After months of working in fear, and COVID back on the rise, we decided that enough was enough," Jessica told training participants. "We were determined to be safe and we combined our unique strengths to form a mobilization committee. We wanted to fight for the right to work from home. We wanted to keep our families safe. We made signs and stood out on the major highway where our buildings are located. After a week, our numbers began to grow and our pickets spread from one building location to three!”  

Through multiple actions, not only did 1088 win a very rich contract, they also pressured the employer to arrange for vaccinations, on the clock, for all employees who still needed one.

Micki Siegel de Hernandez, CWA National Deputy Director of H&S, presented on the best methods to use the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) and the Public Employees Occupational Safety and Health Agency (PEOSH). During interactive breakouts, members reviewed OSHA-PEOSH forms and standards to gather info and resolve mock workplace issues.

Fran Ehret, our new NJ Area Director, presented on how to write an effective grievance with emphasis on knowing your rights and our contract, while Jim McAsey, NJ Mobilization Coordinator, introduced a dynamic panel of rank and file leaders from Locals who have participated in prior H&S trainings.   Leaders explained how they:

  • identified widely and deeply felt H&S issues
  • mapped out their buildings
  • created membership lists that were distributed to stewards and H&S committee members
  • organized job actions including picketing outside workplaces on breaks, holding rallies with media invited, signing petitions then delivering them to management, and threatening work stoppages