CWA Local 1081
60 Park Place, Suite 501
Newark, NJ, 07102
Office (973) 623-1081
Fax: (732) 988-1081

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Newark Teachers Union

New Jersey Citizen Action Oil Group

May 12, 2014

Sharon Butler, Director

Essex County Division of Welfare

18 Rector Street, Floor 9

Newark, NJ, 07102

Re; Step I Class Action Contractual Grievance

Unkempt Air Diffusers & Dirty Carpeting

Article I. Purpose

Article VII. Discipline

Article XXII. Health and Safety

Article XXV. Non-Discrimination

Article XLIX. Safety of Staff

Dear Ms. Butler:

CWA Local 1081 submits this Step II Class Action Contractual Grievance on behalf of our members assigned to work within the privately-owned 18 Rector Street/10 Park Place building to protest the dirty air diffusers (air ducts) located within the respective ceilings of each floor of the structure. The problem is reportedly rampant throughout every floor of the edifice.

Please note the attached photograph taken on Thursday, May 8, 2014 of one such dirty diffuser located within the Military Park Citizen Services Center, upon the second floor, sent me by Family Service Worker and CWA Local 1081 Shop Steward Charlene Morrison. A slew of members of our Union, including myself, have complained about eye and throat irritations experienced while working within this building.

As you are certainly aware, most people have become concerned about the increase in air pollution. We often associate air pollution with the outdoors, but indoor air pollution has become a growing health concern. The air quality in our homes and offices can have an affect on our health. Polluted indoor air can cause a host of problems such as breathing difficulties, allergies, and sinus problems. One method of reducing air pollution is to clean the air ducts.

Contaminated air ducts are often a major a major source of indoor air pollution. Air ducts can provide the perfect environment for the accumulation of allergens, bacteria, fungi, dust, dust mites, mold, and other organisms. Every time a heating and cooling unit runs, pollutants can be pulled in and over time, they will accumulate and flourish. Eventually, these contaminants are blown into rooms where they are inhaled by the occupants. The result will be the development of illnesses and severe allergic reactions.

Poor indoor air quality can cause or contribute to the development of chronic respiratory illnesses such as asthma, bronchitis, lung disease, headaches and migraines, dry eyes, nasal congestion, nausea, insomnia, and tiredness. Biological pollutants such as molds, bacteria, viruses, and pollen reduce air quality which can cause serious illness.

Cleaning air ducts is a great method of improving the quality of indoor air. It improves air circulation, eliminates the built-up of contaminates, and improves the quality and function of heating and cooling systems. Duct cleaning involves the cleaning and disinfection of the components of a heating and cooling system. This normally includes supply and return air ducts and registers, grills and diffusers, heat exchangers, heating and cooling coils, drip pans, fan motor, fan housing and air handling unit housing.

If not properly maintained, the components will become contaminated with dirt and other microorganisms. Moisture in ducts is a breeding ground for bacteria and fungi which can cause respiratory illnesses when inhaled. If there are mice or rats running through the ducts, they will often leave their droppings in the ducts. Air blowing the droppings can result air contamination and may lead to serious health problems.

As for the dirty carpets within the building, please note the attached photograph taken of the carpeting also on the second floor sent me by Sister Morrison as well. This problem is also rampant throughout every floor of the edifice. It has been apparently precipitated by, and/or exacerbated by, people such as the gentleman depicted within the third attached photograph whom are purportedly working on replacing the light bulbs with LED models within the site.

Dirty carpets are well known to be a breeding ground for dust mites, in the same way that dirty hair is a breeding ground for lice. Dust mites feed off of the same fungi, bacteria, and human skin cells that naturally filter into a carpet and stay if the carpet is not cleaned on a regular basis. Studies have also shown that most people are allergic to dust mites, and as they die, their carcasses are inhaled by humans who come into contact with the dirty carpet. Inhalation of the dead bodies has been known to cause rashes, and eye and nose irritation.

Mold has not been proven to link to asthmatic attacks, but this does not mean that mold does not cause humans great discomfort if left unattended. Bacteria and allergens which live on the mold can build up on uncared-for carpeting, and when ingested, can cause allergies to surface via the respiratory system. Worse problems can arise if the body succumbs to the bacteria which live on the mold spores, which it is especially prone to do if already weakened by another disease.

More serious health issues can arise if the body is exposed to too many mycotoxins, for which dirty carpets represent an attractive environment. Buildings are a source of mycotoxins and people living or working in areas with mold increase their chances of adverse health effects. These can range from stomach infections to fatality, depending on the initial health of the exposed person, or over time, as the mycotoxins wear down the body’s defenses. For example, Stachybotrys Chartarum contains a higher number of mycotoxins than other molds grown in the indoor environment and has been associated with allergies and respiratory inflammation.

Normally, CWA Local 1081 would merely email the landlord of the building, Mr. Miles Berger, and make the same requests of him as are contained within the resolution to this grievance found below. Our Union has found Mr. Berger to be very responsive and cooperative in the past, and we have no reason to think he will act any differently when he reads the content of this grievance written you. However, sometimes our Union memorializes issues of serious concern regarding the safety of our members so that they may be apprised of the possible dangers facing them and of the efforts CWA Local 1081 has made to ensure those dangers are mitigated, if not obviated.

Our Union notes that the County of Essex, as the landlord of the 50 South Clinton Street building, is normally not nearly as responsive and cooperative as is Mr. Berger. When the County is responsive and cooperative regarding concerns for the health and safety our Union has expressed through meetings of the Facilities Committee and/or through grievances such as this one, it is due in great part to the excellent efforts of Coordinator Maintenance Services Barbara Hanselmann and of the employees of the Department of Public Works and those others assigned by the County to correct such problems recounted within this grievance at the East Orange facility. For example, during the course of the most recent Facilities Committee meeting the representative of the private firm contracted by the County to clean and maintain the East Orange facility announced a plan purportedly then already activated whereby all of the air diffusers within that building were being thoroughly cleaned.

Therefore, the resolution to this grievance CWA Local 1081 respectfully demands consists of the County ensuring that all of the supply and return air ducts and registers, grills and diffusers, heat exchangers, heating and cooling coils, drip pans, fan motors, fan housings and air handling unit housings within the 18 Rector Street/10 Park Place building are thoroughly cleaned as well and that the carpets are both vacuumed and shampooed.

We seek a hearing in this regard.


David H. Weiner, President

CWA Local 1081