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

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New Jersey Citizen Action Oil Group

April 20, 2016


Jeannette Page-Hawkins, Director

Division of Family Assistance and Benefits-Formerly Division of Welfare

County of Essex

18 Rector Street, Floor 9

Newark, NJ, 07102


Re: Step II Class Action Contractual Grievance

       Managerial Failure to Provide Infectious Disease Protocols

        Article I. Purpose

       Article VII. Discipline

       Article XXII. Health and Safety

       Article XLIX. Safety of Staff


Dear Ms. Page-Hawkins:


CWA Local 1081 submits this Step II Class Action Contractual Grievance on behalf of all our Union’s members to protest the paucity of protocols provided them by the Essex County Division of Family Assistance and Benefits-Formerly Division of Welfare regarding how they should react within the workplace to the presence, or even possible presence, of infectious diseases amongst the clients they service and/or amongst their coworkers.


Recently, within the Downtown Citizen Service Center, located upon the seventh floor of the privately-owned 18 Rector Street, Newark site, a client arrived within the reception area with her child whom the client claimed was infected with the dreaded Zika virus and who was evidently covered with what appeared to be multiple mosquito bites. According to the most recent reliable scientific evidence regarding the Zika virus:


1.      Zika had been considered a nuisance virus until a massive outbreak began last year in Brazil and doctors there reported babies being born with unusually small heads, called microcephaly. Last week, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Zika was indeed the culprit — and that it caused a particularly severe form of microcephaly, with serious underlying brain damage, as well as other brain-related abnormalities.

2.      Anyone who has travel to Zika-affected areas should tell their doctors, who can order the appropriate testing to help determine their risk. There is no treatment for Zika, but those who were infected may need ultrasound exams to check how the fetus is developing

3.      While mosquito bites are the main way Zika spreads, and the reason for CDC's advice for women who are pregnant or attempting conception not to travel to Zika-affected areas. But the virus can be spread through sexual intercourse, too, as it lasts longer in semen than in blood.

4.      Inasmuch as the Zika virus does, however, remain within the blood of infected persons, the members of CWA Local 1081 are concerned about coming into contact with an infected client (or a client with an infected child) and/or any object that client has handled such as a reception slip and/or identification documents the client and/or child might have handled and then the client handed to an agency employee.

5.      While health officials do not, at this time, expect widespread outbreaks within the United States, they do expect local clusters of cases — just like has happened in previous years with a Zika relative named dengue fever that's spread by the same mosquito, a species named Aedes aegypti. It's not just a threat in the South but reaching into parts of the Midwest and Northeast.

6.      Zika also has been linked to a nerve disorder called Guillain-Barre syndrome that can be triggered by various infections, and there have been occasional reports of other neurological problems. Researchers need to explore those further.

7.      As for a possible vaccine against the Zika virus, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) hopes to begin small safety steps of a candidate by September but that wouldn't make any dent in the Latin American outbreak.


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


1.      You shall arrange for the expeditious scheduling of a contractually-stipulate Joint Health and Safety Committee meeting, preferable with both CWA Local 1081 and PESU representatives present, in order to thoroughly discuss this matter of increasingly imperative import.

2.      While I yesterday spoke telephonically with the Essex County Health Officer Michael Festa regarding our Union considerable concerns regarding the paucity of protocols provided our Union’s members regarding their encountering infectious diseases within the workplace, Dr. Festa offered to have an infectious disease expert friend of his address our Union’s members. CWA Local 1081 would be only too pleased were you to assume the responsibility of arranging for this expert to address all of the employees of the Division of Family Assistance and Benefits-Formerly Division of Welfare.

3.      As our Union has always advised our members to take appropriate cautions, such as the use of hand sanitizers and the cleaning of their work areas with antibacterial wipes, the County shall take no disciplinary action against any of our members for so doing.





David H. Weiner, President, CWA Local 1081