New York, NY – Worker safety was on the top of the agenda during Sunday night’s 9 o’clock episode of LaborPress’ Blue Collar Buzz on AM970. And wether suffering the lasting effects of 9/11-related respiratory diseases, or languishing under short-staffing conditions inside our vital courthouses — workers today, across all sectors, need advocates dedicated to safeguarding their safety and well-being more than ever.
Often jeered for issuing summons no driver ever wants to receive — New York City’s Traffic Enforcement Agents, nevertheless, perform duties that protect everyday citizens and keep this town moving. When Saudi highjacks crashed planes into the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001, the members of CWA Local 1182 were among those courageous souls who answered the call for help. And like many of those first responders, they are now suffering the ill-effects of Ground Zero’s toxic air.
“We had a lot of members who were actually involved in going down to the World Trade Center [on 9/11],” CWA Local 1182 Vice-President Tammy Meadows told Blue Collar Buzz. “We had members who were actually inside the building. We have members who were ushering people [out]. We have members who were down there during the clean up who don’t realize that 9/11 is directly responsible for their illnesses [today].”
The New York Committee for Occupational Safety and Health [NYCOSH] has been working hard to urge all those exposed to the air around Ground Zero 16 years ago — Traffic Enforcement Agents included — to sign up with the World Trade Center Health program and get help.
“It’s not uncommon today to read in the news that there’s another 9/11-related death,” NYCOSH’s WTC Health Coordinator Liam Lynch told Blue Collar Buzz. “But there are a lot of reasons why people are not signing up. They’re confused, there’re a lot of programs related to 9/11…there’s a lot of information out there. And I think also, it’s extremely triggering to talk about these programs.”
Talking about the aftermath of 9/11 and worker safety overall, however, is something that needs to be talked about — and often.
Terrorists are not the biggest threat to worker safety — but taken cumulatively, the daily perils facing too many workers on the job can be just as deadly over the long haul. According to the AFL-CIO, between 50- to 60,000 men and women lost their lives to occupational diseases in 2015 alone.
Some labor unions are taking a more wholistic and proactive approach to safeguarding the health and safety of their members.
IATSE Local 1, for instance, has created its own wellness center that has quickly proven itself to be a vital resource for worker health.
“Most organizations or people think that this is just nice to have; a little something extra,” IATSE Local 1 Wellness Center Health Coordinator Mary Kelly told LaborPress. “But we consider this a strategic imperative — to keep the worker healthy for themselves and their families, so they can go back another day and do the best job possible.”
It’s hard to perform at your best when you are severely understaffed and the demands of your job continue to increase. But that’s exactly what the state’s court clerks have been dealing with for too long.
“We’re terribly understaffed right now,” NYS Court Clerks Association President Glenn Damato told Blue Collar Buzz. “We had peaked at over 1,700 clerks — now, we’re actually under 1,500. So, we’re operating short-staffed. We’re being asked to do more with less. If you have a restaurant with two waiters and you go down to one, the service obviously suffers. It’s the same with the courts.”
LaborPress’ “Blue Collar Buzz” airs every Sunday night on AM970 The Answer from 9 to 10 p.m. This week’s episode, as well as every other episode of LaborPress’ “Blue Collar Buzz” is also available on demand at www.am970theanswer.com.