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

February 4, 2016

Jeanette Page-Hawkins, Director

Essex County Division of Welfare

18 Rector Street, Floor 9

Newark, NJ, 07102

Re: Step II Class Action Contractual Grievance

Asbestos & Lead-Based Paint within 50 So. Clinton St.

Article I. Purpose

Article VII. Discipline

Article XXV. Non-Discrimination

Article XXII. Health and Safety

Article XLIX. Safety of Staff

Dear Ms. Page-Hawkins:

CWA Local 1081, representing the non-supervisor employees of the Essex County Division of Welfare, submits this Step II Class Action Contractual Grievance on behalf of our members assigned to the County-owned 50 South Clinton Street, East Orange building to protest the presence of asbestos containing materials (ACM) and lead-based paint (LBP) within that facility that have been allowed to fester therein for the past eighteen (18) years.

In response to our Union’s attached Open Public Records Act (OPRA) request of January 14, 2016, the County provided CWA Local 1081 the attached letter of, ironically, February 4, 1998 written the “County of Essex Division of Engineering” by Robert Kingsbury and Stanley Lewandowski of the consulting and environmental engineering firm PMK Group:

1. Mr. Kingsbury performed an “asbestos/lead-based paint update review” of the site on February 3, 1998.

2. PMK reported that, “At this time, (ACM) is known to remain present at the subject facility as asbestos-containing transite fascia panels forming the exterior of the facility”.

3. PMK reported that, “Also in 1995, PMK conducted a lead-based (LBP) inspection of the facility and identified LBP to be present associated with structural steel elements (stairwell elements, etc,) at the facility. At this time, the LBP was considered not to be of concern due to its application and condition”.

4. PMK reported that, “Additionally, no suspect ACM was observed to exist concealed within the core/chase spaces. It should be noted, however, that access to the core/chase spaces was extremely limited due to the presence of new interior architectural finishes installed as part of the renovation activities”.

CWA Local 1081 notes the following concerns our Union harbors regarding the content of the aged above cited letter from the two PMK Group representatives:

1. The most recent “asbestos/lead-based paint update review” of the site was conducted nearly twenty years ago and, and as far as we know (and per the documentation provided our Union by the County per our OPRA request); there has not been another such safety review of the site within nearly twenty years.

2. Transite originated as a brand that Johns-Manville created in 1929 for a line of asbestos-cement products, including boards and pipes. In time, it became a generic term for other companies' similar asbestos-cement products. Within the past nearly twenty years, it is quite probable that the asbestos contained within the “panels forming the exterior of the facility” have decomposed and become friable. Friable asbestos is a term used to describe any asbestos-containing material that, when dry, can be easily crumbled or pulverized to powder by hand. Material that contains more than just 1% asbestos, and is friable, is considered to be Regulated Asbestos-Containing Material (RACM). Some common examples of friable asbestos are acoustic ceilings and tiles, many types of plasters, wallboard, joint compound or "mud" and thermal insulation for water heaters and pipes. Although use of asbestos in these products was banned by 1978, those already in the marketplace remained on the shelves and were used in construction for many years after. They are still, unfortunately, commonly found in homes today mostly within the older structures located within urban areas where many children have contracted brain damage from ingesting the poisoned paint.

3. The above cited letter asserted that, “Also in 1995, PMK conducted a lead-based (LBP) to be present associated with structural steel elements (stairwell elements, etc,) at the facility. At this time, the LBP was not considered to be of concern due to its application and condition”. After twenty-one (21) years, the lead-based paint within the stairwells, and other places within the structure, quite probably has decomposed and represents a risk to the thousands of clients and hundreds of employees using the building’s two very narrow stairwells. These clients (men, women and especially children), as well as our Union’s members, may well be touching and/or inhaling the very dangerous lead-based paint fragments.

4. Inasmuch as “the access to the core/chase spaces was extremely limited” at the time of PMK’s 1995 LBP inspection, it is quite possible that lead-based paint still lingers within these spaces and quite probably has decomposed.

As you may not be aware, CWA Local 1081 and PESU (the Public Employees Supervisors Union representing the supervisory employees of the Essex County Division of Welfare) vociferously opposed the County of Essex purchasing the building from the bankrupt United Hospital organization. Please note our Unions’ jointly-held concerns, as articulated within the attached Star Ledger newspaper article of January 23, 2000.

The resolution CWA Local 1081 respectfully demands to this grievance consists of the following:

1. The County shall expeditiously arrange for PMK, or another comparable company, to inspect the building for the possible presence of friable asbestos within the “transite fascia panels forming the exterior of the facility”.

2. The County shall expeditiously arrange for PMK, or another comparable company, to inspect the building for the possible presence of decomposing lead-based paint especially within the stairwells.

3. The County shall expeditiously arrange for PMK, or another comparable company, to inspect the building for the possible presence of decomposing lead-based paint especially within the core/chase spaces to which access was limited to PMK in 1995.

We seek a hearing in this regard.


David H. Weiner, President

CWA Local 1081

County office site spurs debate
Facility brings services under one roof, but union points to flaws

Diane C. Walsh Star-Ledger Staff
PUBLICATION: Star-Ledger, The (Newark, NJ)

DATE: January 23, 2000


Page: 41

County Executive James Treffinger looks at 50 S. Clinton St. in East Orange and he sees a clean, modern building, where an assortment of social service and economic development programs have been moved for the convenience of county residents and businesses.

David Weiner and Nicholas Nicoletta, two county union leaders, look at the same building and see poorly designed waiting rooms for welfare clients, inadequate parking for workers, and heating and security problems.

The diverging views on the five-story structure overlooking Route 280 underscore the strained relationship between the administration and the unions at the county welfare division. With a $55 million budget, the division services about 54,000 people with food stamp programs, welfare-to-work initiatives and adult Medicaid, making it the sixth-largest social service agency in the nation.

Essex County bought the 139,000-square-foot building for $2 million and spent $3 million renovating and furnishing it. The goal was to centralize the county's social services and economic divisions under one roof. Before, the offices were scattered throughout the county in Cedar Grove, East Orange, Newark and Orange.

County Administrator Vincent DiMauro likes to point out the previous owner, United Hospitals, bought the building for $3 million and spent $9 million to redo the entire interior and upgrade all the systems, including the heating and ventilation. When United Hospital went bankrupt, the building was put on the market and the county snatched it up.

Taxpayer-guaranteed bonds were sold to buy the building, and the county spent months renovating it. The new building was dubbed the Essex County Economic Development Center. In October, the first county agencies were relocated there to provide, as Treffinger calls it, "one stop shopping."

On the first floor there are food stamp and welfare offices with giant waiting rooms. But Weiner and Nicoletta said the space is not sufficient during the first weeks of the month, when clients typically jam the offices. They also complained there have been heating and electrical problems and that many office doors are unlocked, creating a security issue for welfare workers.

County officials said there would be improvements to the security system. They also attributed last week's heating problems to difficulties in getting the temperature regulated after a long three-day weekend given workers for Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Officials also blamed the welfare workers for creating power outages by plugging in unauthorized space heaters.

Susan Hirschhorn, an assistant administrative supervisor in the food stamp office, said her new offices are "much better, much cleaner and it offers much more privacy" for the workers and clients. She remembers the rats and roaches that infested many of the offices the county previously rented, and she thinks the South Clinton Street building is an improvement.

Essex County also relocated the county tax board to 50 S. Clinton St., in addition to the Essex County Economic Development Corp., a new satellite division of the county vocational school, and the new Division of Training and Employment, a federally funded agency in charge of the county's welfare-to- work initiatives.

George Librizzi, the county tax board administrator, said his new accommodations are "head and shoulders above" the old offices on Grove Street in East Orange. There is more space available for the public to examine records, and the courtrooms, where the tax appeals are heard, are equipped with computers to easily access tax records, Librizzi said.

Robert Noonan, superintendent of the vocational schools, said the new space enables him to expand the daytime adult education program, which had to compete with the high school for space. Noonan has five classrooms in the building and now offers a licensed practical nurse program there. In the future, Noonan hopes to secure grants that will enable his school to provide vocational training to the welfare clients in the building.

Jeff Bertrand, director of the new Division of Training and Employment, is excited about his new quarters.

"This is the best county building," he said during a recent tour. Before 50 S. Clinton was acquired, Bertrand had to ask Essex County College for use of its conference rooms whenever he staged daylong seminars to help welfare recipients find jobs.

Now, Bertrand has his own conference areas, computer laboratories, a play area for toddlers, and smaller office space to meet with businesses on economic development issues.

Weiner, president of Local 1081 of the Communication Workers of America representing the welfare workers, contended Bertrand's accommodations are better than the welfare office.

"We're treated like pyorrhea by that department," he charged. Weiner has been at odds with the administration since last year, when Treffinger created Bertrand's division as a separate unit apart from the traditional welfare division.

Treffinger has argued the new Division of Training and Employment is a more cohesive and effective way to reduce the county's welfare rolls. The county executive also said that relocating so many offices to 50 S. Clinton St. allows "all the economic development arms of county government to give easier access to citizens and to encourage greater interagency cooperation."

Weiner said he is grateful for the improved accommodations, but he said there are still building deficiencies that must be addressed.