Workplace Health and Safety
Hillary has dedicated the majority of her career to workers’ health and safety rights. She began this focus as a member of a seasonal outreach team of a health clinic where she provided training and information on topics like heat exhaustion, pesticide exposure, sexually transmitted infections, and diabetes to migrant farmworkers in New Jersey. Hillary then transitioned to a job working for United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW) where she was able to learn about and harness the power of organized labor. There, she trained meatpacking and warehouse workers on identifying hazards.Hillary also facilitated strategy discussions focused on pushing companies to create safer working conditions. Following this experience, Hillary was part of a team interviewing day laborers about occupational conditions in Seattle while attending graduate school. Based on the results of the interviews, she piloted and then implemented a health and safety program for day laborers. Most recently, she provided workplace health and safety rights training and technical assistance to many low-wage and immigrant workers in the Philadelphia region. Hillary was recently invited to join the advisory panel for the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health’s Mountain and Plains Education and Research Center.
Case Study: Working with Day Laborers
Based on surveys of 180 day laborers, Hillary designed a weekly safety and health training program at two day labor dispatch sites in Seattle. The trainings focused on identifying hazards, learning how to use personal protective equipment and deciding whether or not to accept dangerous jobs. Hillary built the program from scratch and worked on it for its initial year. While this program operated out of the University of Washington for two day labor organizations, the goal was to build internal capacity for the day labor centers to run the programs themselves. One of the day labor centers, CASA Latina, was ultimately awarded a capacity building training grant from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to run the program in-house.
Diverse Social Identities and Conflict
Hillary has participated in and facilitated dialogues and trainings about diverse social identities, such as race, class, gender, sexual orientation, religion, and culture. While in college, Hillary started co-facilitating trainings on diversity as a student educator with the campus office of multicultural affairs. This experience sparked a deep interest in creating spaces for dialoguing about and across different social identities about assumptions, beliefs, power, and conflict. Most recently, Hillary pursued a graduate certificate in diversity leadership at Temple University, where she learned to incorporate the skills of Transformational Social Therapy (TST) into her work. TST is founded in the belief that without creating space for conflict to arise and be addressed - there is violence.
Case Study: Black-Jewish Dialogue
Based on a historical link that has sometimes been held between African-Americans and Jewish Americans in the United States, Hillary (a Jewish-American) and a colleague (an African-American) decided to explore the relationship and conflict between these two groups. They created a dialogue space at Temple University for people who identified as either Black, Jewish, or Black and Jewish. Within this space, participants were asked to discuss their identities, assumptions, and emotions about each other. The first dialogue was so successful that participants asked to continue meeting and a second dialogue was scheduled.
In her various roles and capacities, Hillary designed a number of leadership programs. As an outreach worker with migrant farmworkers, she helped develop a health promoters program. While working with the UFCW, she conducted several Spanish language train-the-trainers for stewards, safety committee members, and local union representatives. In these train-the-trainers, participants were able to build their skills and leadership so they could better work with and advocate for needed changes at their packing and processing facilities. While working with the Pennsylvania Immigration and Citizenship Coalition (PICC), Hillary designed and facilitated an immigrant leadership program with her colleague to build the legislative advocacy skills of state immigrant leaders. All of these experiences gave her the insight into the skills leaders needed and the ways in which she craved additional feedback on her work, which helped to lead to the creation of the Philadelphia Trainers’ Collaborative.
Case Study: Philadelphia Trainers’ Collaborative (PTC)
Hillary and two colleagues recognized the need for a skills-building space for trainers, organizers, and facilitators in the Philadelphia region. All three of them felt isolated in their roles as trainers and believed that through a regular monthly skill-share they could learn and enhance their interactive training techniques. They created PTC, a member run group that ran from 2009-2013 and continually brought in new trainers and facilitators looking to network and develop a community of colleagues from which to learn.
UFCW (United Food and Commerical Workers' International Union)
Strengthening workers’ voices to increase safety
The office of Occupational Safety and Health at UFCW responded to the request of a local union to train their members working at a meatpacking plant. With high levels of repetitive motion injuries, the local union wanted their stewards and safety committee members to be able to better identify workplace hazards and root causes of injury. The plant management had been misreporting and/or misclassifying workplace injuries. Hillary assisted in developing and facilitating a day long training in Spanish for participants to better identify causes of injury and barriers to worker engagement. The interactive training methods allowed workers to express the fears and concerns that were affecting injury and hazard reporting. Local union leadership were surprised by what they heard and eager to assist the workers in creating a plan to improve conditions. Due to the training, there has been greater attention paid to the needs of the workers in this plant, attention to causes of injury, and more open lines of communication between members and staff.
Tree House Books & Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania
With Pyramid Consulting Services, Hillary facilitated a volunteer orientation for Tree House Books that focused on exploring race and class identity. The objective was to confront some of the fears present for volunteers in mentoring young people and working within a diverse race and class environment. Blue Door and Pyramid also co-facilitated a Diversity Dialogue for faculty and staff of Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania. This day-long training had participants explore ways to better address diverse social identities in their classrooms and on campus by sharing some of their own opinions.
Hillary Blecker has over a decade of experience designing and facilitating community-building trainings. Hillary has developed and facilitated trainings on workplace health and safety, community health and nutrition, diversity and conflict, and legislative advocacy and civic engagement. She has worked for labor unions, community based organizations, non-profits, and universities. She is bilingual in English and Spanish and is experienced in working with interpreters.