Posted in 'CWA'

In the wake of the natural disasters leaving the southern United States, Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico in despair, USWTMC Specialized Emergency Response Trainers (SERTs) are deploying to devastated areas and delivering training. The cadre’s goal is to better equip the individuals and communities working to clean-up and rebuild in the aftermath of the disasters with the tools necessary to ensure their health and safety in the process. The SERTs began deployment late September 2017 to various regions of Texas.

Week 14: Feb. 12-18, 2018 in the U.S. Virgin Islands

Marybeth Potter of United Steelworkers Local Union 1-689 remained in the Virgin Islands this week to continue outreach on behalf of the USW Specialized Emergency Response Trainers. She was joined by Frank Condell, training director for the A. Philip Randolph Institute, Pittsburgh Chapter, and USWTMC worker-trainer.

The SERTs took Monday to visit the Bureau of Motor Vehicles in Saint Thomas with USW Local Union 9-8249 President Sheryl Parris and Health and Safety Representative Gary Simon. They toured the facility noticing significant mold hazards and spoke with some members regarding illness due to exposure. The team then went on to the lieutenant governor’s office where they connected with some members as well as management. In the end, they made plans to work together to solve significant health and safety issues. Potter reported that they were presented with contact information for guidance from the United Steelworkers International, National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) and National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). They also offered NIEHS booklets for more information on how to protect oneself while helping others in the wake of a natural disaster.

On Tuesday the SERTs scheduled a tentative training focused on mold remediation for USW members at a union meeting to take place on Thursday. Potter and Condell worked to put together the materials.

Potter and Condell, along with Parris, visited SeaView nursing home on Wednesday where USW-represented members work. The SERTs reported significant damage from the hurricane along with little funding left to clean up and rebuild the damaged areas. The facility administrator reported to them that the residents are safe, the damaged areas are secured and the remaining structure is livable and intact, however, obvious work still needs to be completed.

Week 14: Feb. 12-18, 2018 in Puerto Rico

Mejia and Edington continued their outreach in Puerto Rico this week. On Monday the SERTs held resiliency training for workers at Metropolitan University (UMET). The following day the SERTs prepared all of the materials for an OSHA 10-hour construction course and followed up on obtaining personal protective equipment (PPE) for training. On Wednesday the SERTs facilitated day one the OSHA-10 course in Ponce, and concluded day two on Thursday. Finishing up the week, Mejia and Edington held a mold awareness class in Ponce and more resiliency training at UMET.

Posted In: AFLCIO, CWA, Environment, Health and Safety, Labor Institute, Mazzocchi, NDLON, USW

The Tony Mazzocchi Center partnership completed a successful training on Ebola and Other Infectious Diseases last month, resulting in the interest for further education for exposed workers.

Ebola and Other Infectious Diseases training - 7/18/2015On July 18, union members from the Communications Workers of America (CWA) and the University Professional and Technical Employees (UPTE-CWA) convened at the UPTE-CWA Local Union 9119 hall in Berkeley, Calif., to participate in a class focused on exposure to these communicable diseases. The group yielded a diverse variation of workers across industries such as telecommunications and healthcare, social working and clinical lab specialists. Representatives from UPTE-CWA Local Union 9119 and CWA Local Unions 9408, 9423, 9410, 9404 and 9415 were present.

“There weren’t any frontline workers in the class such as RNs, but there were certainly a number of other workers just as easily exposed,” Local 9119 Vice President Jamie McDole said, “like clinical lab folks handling blood samples and various other staff at hospitals, social workers, case managers, researchers and animal lab technicians who all deal with infectious diseases.”

McDole took the lead in organization this training, reaching out to nearby local union leadership, stewards and other campus activists.

Joan Lichterman serves as the safety and health director for Local 9119 and also the occupational safety and health trainer for the CWA District 9 public sector. She shared that this training is specifically important to telecommunications workers too, as job tasks consist of servicing hospitals, labs and other areas where disease may be transmitted.

The eight-hour course opened with awareness of infectious diseases and how they are transmitted, but then expanded into workers’ rights and employers’ responsibilities, implementing the hierarchy of controls, organizing committees to tackle health and safety issues, and other points of discussion.

“This training was more than an awareness-level course,” Industrial Hygienist Bernie Mizula said. Mizula facilitated this training and as part of the TMC partnership, developed the curriculum. “Protection against infectious disease is best achieved by proper implementation of the hierarchy of controls, beyond awareness and PPE.”

During the training another focus was directed toward laws protecting workers, their understanding of the laws, and how to utilize committees to reach goals set to protect worker safety and health.

“We talked about the Injury and Illness Prevention Program (§3203 under Cal/OSHA) and how members can use it,” Lichterman said.

“It’s interesting because employers have said they don’t want a ‘one size fits all’ program and with this, every employer customizes their own plan that works for them and addresses the issues,” she continued. “This is something that unions can use to make sure it is done properly and organize.”

Before wrapping up the training, CWA Occupational Safety and Health Director Dave LeGrande addressed the class on the importance of organizing to promote and ensure safe and healthy workplaces.

“The training provided a comprehensive coverage of a union approach to identifying and controlling Ebola and other infectious diseases for University of California healthcare and affected telecommunications workers,” LeGrande said.

“Due to this training, participating members and health and safety activists will better be able to ensure their employer is providing safe and healthful working conditions, as well as to spread the word and involve coworkers in the union’s safety and health efforts.”

Efforts to expand this training to other workers in areas where Ebola and infectious diseases are capable of spreading are in progress.

“The medical community and other exposed workers need more help and attention,” Mizula said. “I hope we can develop more robust curriculum in the future.”

Photos courtesy of Joan Lichterman.

This training project is supported by grant number 2 U45 ES06175 from the National Institute for Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS), NIH.

Posted In: Health and Safety, Mazzocchi, CWA

By Nikki Pollo

On May 1, the United Steelworkers Tony Mazzocchi Center and their affiliates were granted an award for Ebola Biosafety and Infectious Disease Response Training by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS, NIH). The award will span over the course of three months, ending on July 31, 2015.

Along with the USWTMC, the partnership includes the Communications Workers of America (CWA), Labor Institute, Make the Road New York (MRNY) and National Day Laborers Organizing Network (NDLON).
Utilizing this award the partnership will build a cadre of health and safety professionals, both English and Spanish speaking, who will assist with instructing selected worker-trainers throughout numerous industries who will then share their knowledge in perspective fields. These trainers will demonstrate curriculum on Ebola awareness, as well as other infectious disease and bloodborne pathogens.

Most all health and safety professionals within the partnership are already certified in hazardous waste operations and emergency response training. As a result of their current certifications and newly practiced disease awareness training, these experienced trainers will be available in times of crisis and epidemic to assist in responding to emergencies.

Labor Institute Director Les Leopold explains that the Ebola infectious disease supplement allows the group to transfer their hazardous waste training skills to the area of infectious diseases.

“Many USW-represented workers will be asked to work in and around people who may carry highly contagious diseases,” Leopold said. “These workers need and deserve training.”

The TMC partnership represents 60,000 healthcare workers, 50,000 airline flight attendants, airline airport agents, and thousands of immigrant workers employed as community healthcare workers, airline cleaners, baggage handlers, and other cleaners in and around hospitals designated as Ebola treatment care centers, among multiple other industries. The workers represented above are the most at risk of being exposed to Ebola and other infectious diseases.

“This pilot program allows us to begin training a wide range of workers at medical facilities, community health workers, airport cleaners and airline personnel,” Leopold said. “Our pilot grant allows us to train trainers who will conduct four-hour awareness level programs on Ebola and other infectious diseases.”

The material developed for this training was created and piloted in the field by health and safety expert Bernard Mizula (MS, CIH, CET, CHS-V, RPIH), who is contracted to work with the TMC on this and many other projects concerning his expertise. The first implementation of this curriculum was presented during classes facilitated by Mizula at the 2015 USW Health, Safety and Environment Conference.

The partnership is currently preparing these professionals and working on the training of at-risk workers. An opportunity targeting healthcare workers who are members of UPTE-CWA Local Union 9119 is scheduled for July 18, 2015 in Berkeley, Calif.

Posted In: Health and Safety, Mazzocchi, USW, CWA

Lead Kills

Lead is a carcinogen, reproductive hazard and affects development of the central nervous/causes brain disorders. Communications Workers of America (CWA) members employed as cable splicers, lineman and other outside plant technician jobs are routinely assigned to work with lead-encased telecommunications cables. Thus, it is imperative that represented employers provide affected workers with safe and healthful working conditions which comply with the Federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) Lead Standard.

CWA logoCWA District 7/CenturyLink/Minnesota OSHA Lead Abatement Settlement Agreement

On Tuesday, Nov. 18, 2013, a landmark Minnesota OSHA/CWA District 7/CenturyLink settlement agreement regarding work with lead cable become effective.

Following an investigation by Minnesota OSHA during winter to spring 2013 and the agency’s issuance of nine citations for violations of the OSHA Lead Standard, during September 2013, CWA, Minnesota OSHA, and CenturyLink agreed to a landmark lead abatement program. The lead abatement program, which brings the company into compliance with OSHA’s Lead Standard, focuses upon “Lead Sheath Cable Cleaning, Preparation for Splicing and Removal.” Specific provisions include notification and training; coverage of safe and healthful work practices and procedures; provision of appropriate engineering, administrative and personal protective equipment to prevent/control lead exposure, medical surveillance and personal hygiene.

The lead abatement program will ensure CWA members/CenturyLink technicians who work with lead-encased cable and other lead products are provided safe and healthful working conditions.

Subsequently, during October 2013, CWA District 7, the union’s Occupational Safety and Health department, and CenturyLink negotiated an agreement to expand the Minnesota OSHA settlement agreement to include District 7-wide implementation of the company’s lead abatement program including notification, training and medical surveillance for affected technicians. Subsequently, CWA’s Occupational Safety and Health department and CenturyLink have agreed to have the lead abatement program broadened to cover all affected CenturyLink technicians throughout the U.S.

CWA looks forward to working with company personnel in developing and implementing the Lead Abatement Program throughout District 7 as well as other U.S. CenturyLink work locations.


Following manhole work with a lead-encased telecommunications cable, a member of CWA Local 7201, St. Paul, Minn., employed as a technician by CenturyLink began experiencing physical discomfort. Subsequently, he went to his doctor who diagnosed him with medical issues caused by lead exposure. This information was provided to Minnesota OSHA prompting the agency to conduct a comprehensive investigation of working conditions at the company’s underground vault/manhole that contained the lead-encased telecommunications cable in question. The investigation, which took place from February to June 2013, resulted in the agency’s identification of numerous workplace hazards and its July 9 issuance of nine (9) serious citations for violation of the OSHA Lead Standard. Subsequently, CenturyLink contested these citations.

On Tuesday, Sept. 10, Minnesota OSHA hosted a conference call/meeting regarding the resolution/settlement of the nine (9) citations against CenturyLink. Participating in the meeting with Minnesota OSHA personnel were representatives of CenturyLink’s and CWA’s Occupational Safety and Health and Legal departments. Following the two-hour settlement meeting, representatives of CenturyLink, CWA District 7, and the union’s Occupational Safety and Health department agreed to Minnesota OSHA’s proposed settlement agreement. The settlement agreement will include the roll-out of CenturyLink’s newly updated Lead Abatement Program/adherence to the OSHA Lead Standard.

Specific issues contained in the agency’s citations and covered in the settlement agreement include:   

  • Exposure to lead above the OSHA permissible exposure level of 50 micrograms per cubic centimeters of air over an eight-hour period
  • Failure to implement necessary engineering controls, work practices and respiratory controls to reduce lead exposure below the OSHA permissible exposure level
  • Failure to identify lead concentrations before the assigned manhole work was performed
  • Failure to implement a written respiratory protection program as required by the OSHA Respirator Standard  
  • Failure to provide affected workers with the required and appropriate protective work clothing and equipment while performing work on lead sleeves
  • Failure to provide for the cleaning and laundering of work clothing
  • Failure to inform persons who were laundering lead-contaminated clothing of the potentially harmful effects of lead (this citation was reduced to non-serious)
  • Failure to provide clean change rooms after exposure to lead in excess of the OSHA Lead Standard
  • Failure to require the affected worker to shower at the end of the work shift after being exposed to lead in excess of the permissible exposure level and,
  • Failure to provide an adequate lead training program as required by the OSHA Lead Standard

View the CWA working with lead checklist here.

Posted In: CWA

The United Steelworkers, Communications Workers of America, and the Tony Mazzochi Center put together another successful Health, Safety & Environment Conference.  The 2012 conference included many unique opportunities for individuals to gain knowledge and key information to take back to their workplace, such as morning plenary sessions and afternoon workshops.  Attendees heard from various union leaders, subject matter experts, and health & safety activists.  Over 80 different types of workshops were offered that covered a variety of different health, safety & environment topics.  These topics included Near Miss Investigation and Prevention, Incident Investigation, Lockout/Tagout, Emergency Response, and Normalization of Deviation.  The United Steelworkers Health, Safety & Environment Department also utilized the expertise of outside facilitators to lead classes on post-traumatic stress, railroad operations, nanotechnology, global sweatshop working conditions, and the lessons learned from the Upper Big Branch Mine disaster.

Many of these workshops were designed and facilitated by the Tony Mazzochi Center Worker-Trainers, and many of them took of advantage of the Small Group Activity Method (SGAM).  This type of teaching style puts the workers in the center of the learning process, utilizing a collection of experience and knowledge to ensure that every participant is given the opportunity to gain as much information as possible.  This active and engaging approach to teaching is one of the keys behind the educational successes of the Tony Mazzochi Center.

While these workshops were a terrific opportunity to teach a wide range of topics, they were only a small taste of what the TMC has to offer.  Individuals interested in finding out more can use the USW/TMC website to see a more complete list of the in-depth and comprehensive courses that the Tony Mazzochi Center can bring to you.

Posted In: Mazzocchi, Health and Safety, USW, CWA

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