History and Function of the ERT Program
The Emergency Response Team originated with the Oil Chemical & Atomic Workers union (OCAW), a predecessor to PACE and became a part of the USW when the two unions merged last year.
ERT coordinator Al McDougall and team member Duronda Pope
Typically, emergencies that cost a life or result in life-altering injuries are reported to an ERT hotline, 866-526-3480, by a local union president or staff representative. The hotline is available 24 hours a day.
As soon as is practical, ERT members are on their way to the accident site, often on the same day. Those on call include program coordinator Al McDougall and team member Duronda Pope.
The team essentially acts a bridge between the company and the family of the injured or deceased worker. Typically, ERT members press the employer for help with immediate family needs and with funeral costs if they are not included in the contract.
If legal assistance is requested by the family, the ERT will help with referrals, said McDougall, a former union miner who became involved with employee assistance programs years ago.
Team members often make follow up visits months later to check up on family members and to offer co-workers counseling and work shops on grief and coping skills.
Sample Emergency Response Team functions:
- Serve as victim advocates
- Coordinate support for victims and families
- Act as liaison between families and the employer and families and the local union
- Help victims and families secure legal representation if necessary
- Provide referrals to local therapists who understand the needs of organized labor and of those dealing with loss and trauma