The best ideas emerge unexpectedly from the grassroots in seemingly unlikely places. One of those ideas is an organization called C.L.E.A.N. which stands Community, Labor, Environmental Action Network. The story behind the creation of this group is both enlightening and interesting. The concept is very sound. I hope C.L.E.A.N. chapters will eventually be in every state.
C.L.E.A.N. resulted from a Delaware UFCW Local 27 organizing drive. While organizing, the UFCW realized that workers were being exposed to dangerous chemicals in the work environment. As they explored the worker safety issue, they realized that adverse health effects impacted workers, their families and the surrounding community. As a result, the UFCW reached out to other unions, churches and community groups to build a coalition. C.L.E.A.N. was born. The growth has exploded in just 4 months.
Among the unions and other groups who have joined in Delaware are A. Philip Randolph Institute, AFSCME Local #640, Amalgamated Transit Union Local 842, Christiana Presbyterian Church, Sprinklerfitters Local 669 , Delaware Ecumenical Council on Children and Families, Delaware State AFL-CIO, Community Services , Democratic Talk Radio , Interfaith Coalition Building Block for Wilmington, International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees- Local 284, IBEW Local 313, LIUNA Local 1029, LIUNA Local 199, Methodist Action Program, OPEIU Local 277, Pacem in Terris, Progressive Democrats for Delaware, St. Paul's Church, 23rd RD Committee, UAPP Local #74, United Food and Commercial Workers Local 27, USW, District 4, Voices Without Borders and Young Democrats Movement. C.L.E.A.N. is actively seeking new member organizations.
Here is their story. While looking into the connection between worker safety and the health impacts of pollution in the larger community, the UFCW discovered some shocking facts. Below are just a few examples:
The rate of asthma among adults in Delaware is 11.7% while nationally it is 10.8%. In the most populous county in Delaware (New Castle), the American Lung Association graded them F for pollution.
Delaware’s 1999-2003 overall cancer incidence rate was 5.3% higher than the national estimate. There were a shocking 20,793 cases reported during this period.
919 total cases of urinary bladder cancer were diagnosed among Delaware residents during 1999-2003. A 1195 study found that “A total of … 21% to 27% of bladder cancers are estimated to be related to occupational exposure.”
Luckily, the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) in Region 2 had many top notch leaders, organizers and staffers on the job when these facts came to light. UFCW Regional leadership under Director Alvin Vincient, Jr. and his Executive Assistant Pat Burgwin had long emphasized the need for unions to reach out to the community and get more involvement in organizing drives.