July 2020

We Need an Emergency Standard to Protect Workers from COVID-19

Worker advocates showed up in force to the Occupational Safety & Health Standards Board monthly meeting on July 16, seeking strong and enforceable workplace protections for all Californians. Kicking off the general public comment, I told the Board Worksafe is proud to stand with a growing list of organizations pushing for greater health and safety accountability in California's workplaces.
I pointed out that we are learning daily about new workplace outbreaks, from nursing homes to packing houses, fast food restaurants to garment factories. Workplaces are both receiving and generating COVID-19 cases, spreading infection and sending workers home to their families. In Fresno, half the staff of the Harris Ranch Beef Company missed work because of the virus. In LA, the Los Angeles Apparel factory was shut down by public health officials with over 300 confirmed infections among the workers and four known deaths. The situation has only worsened in the weeks since.
Several other advocates spoke about the need for an emergency standard at the meeting, including the Warehouse Worker Resource Center’s Research & Policy Coordinator Mirella Deniz-Zaragoza, who stated that for the Inland Empire warehouse workers they represent, the existing guidance from Cal/OSHA is just not enough.
Stan Santos of the Fresno, Madera, Tulare, Kings Counties Central Labor Council spoke passionately about the impact of COVID on workers in the Central Valley. Ramon Castellblanch with the California Association of Retired Americans also spoke for the standard. Kevin Riley with UCLA LOSH and Prof. Ed Flores with UC Merced presented data illustrating patterns of infections among frontline workers, including the disproportionate impact on economically distressed workers and families. 
With infections spiraling out of control across the state, the case for our position is hard to rebut. Employer representatives made a few points about costs and unnecessary regulation. In the end, Board members were clearly taken by the outpouring of support, and they unexpectedly took up and passed by unanimous vote a resolution expressing the Board’s interest in having the standard on their August agenda. 

Whether that actually happens remains to be seen, as Department of Industrial Relations Director Katie Hagen suggested that layers of review by the Newsom Administration might make that difficult. The “go slow” message was troubling. After mentioning recent agency visits to employers, she was unable to answer a question about how many citations Cal/OSHA has issued. We are eager to get this question answered.
New supporters continue to join since that meeting. You can see the whole list — and add your organization — here on our website. There’s lots of work to be done, and with your help we can keep the pressure on.
In Solidarity,
Stephen Knight, Executive Director
ICYMI: New Fact Sheet - Now in Spanish
Be sure to check out Worksafe's new fact sheet: Understanding the Right to Refuse Unsafe Work in California. Now available in English and Spanish, the fact sheet presents an overview of the issue as it relates to occupational safety and health law, a list of considerations for workers facing this difficult decision, and a brief exploration of options for recourse in the event of retaliation. Please read, share, and send us your feedback – we're always looking for it!
Worksafe Welcomes New Board Member

We are thrilled to announce Purva Grover has joined the Worksafe Board of Directors. Purva most recently was a Senior Occupational Health Specialist at UNITE HERE! International Union’s Worker Safety and Health Program. She headed up the union’s training program for hotel housekeepers and union representatives on the new Cal/OSHA standard designed to prevent musculoskeletal injuries in hotel housekeeping. Purva brings many years of experience in worker education programs in a union setting, including providing occupational health and safety training to homecare, long-term care, and hospital workers. Please join us in welcoming her to the Worksafe Board!
Why are you passionate about worker health & safety? 
A: I firmly believe that it is a person's right to not get injured or sick while earning their livelihood. Some types of work are considered "less dangerous" than others and as result are overlooked in health and safety considerations. That is why I think it important to not only educate workers on health and safety but also their respective employers and even the public. 
What made you want to join the Worksafe Board?
A: I joined the Worksafe Board because I think it is a privilege to be able work alongside other health and safety professionals in the advocacy of Occupational Safety and in the pursuit of justice for workers that have fallen sick or have been injured on the job, or have been retaliated against for advocating for themselves. As a Board member I hope to contribute in putting a spotlight on all the great work Worksafe does! 
What do you think is the most pressing issue facing workers in 2020?
A: The COVID-19 issue is at the forefront as it affects all workers but especially essential workers. Though clear solutions and protections are expected to be the consensus, upon closer examination they are not. This is going to be a long-term issue for which the fight has just begun.
Building Racial Equity in the Legal System

A key part of Worksafe's mission is ensuring legal access for vulnerable workers a growing group due to precarious working conditions amplified by the pandemic. The disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on communities of color, and how it has intersected with continued brutality inflicted on black and brown bodies, has increased demand in the legal profession to address issues of implicit bias and structural racism. 
Worksafe's Chief of Staff & Equity, Jora Trang, recently collaborated with Brandon Lawrence of Mental Health Advocacy Services to offer a training exploring these issues. The training covered how various forms of racism in the legal system affect lawyers of color, how BIPOC clients are represented, and how judges and juries perceive BIPOC attorneys and clients in the courtroom.
The training was part of a two-day advocacy and mock trial event hosted by the Legal Aid Association of California and the National Institute for Trial Advocacy, which is provided annually to legal aid attorneys free of charge. Worksafe participates as part of our ongoing commitment to building the capacity of legal aid attorneys to represent indigent clients with occupational health and safety issues. 
Worksafe recognizes workplace racism as an occupational hazard that can and does impact physical and mental health. For the past decade, we have offered trainings on community lawyering based on principles of race equity and cultural humility. Please contact us if your organization is interested in this type of training.
AUG 12: Taking Action For Worker Safety / Tomando Medidas Para El Bienestar De Los Trabajadores
As workplaces re-open, what do we need in order to protect our health as workers? What rights do we have, and what are realistic strategies to stand up for our rights? What policies are needed to make sure our employers follow public health guidelines? 
You won't want to miss this free webinar (for workers and advocates) on August 12 at 5pm (PT). An interactive format will be used to build our knowledge and skills to plan what to fight for and how to do it. We will also learn about two important bills to expand workers' access to paid leave. Spanish interpretation will be available. 
Worksafe’s Director of Policy and Legal Services, Nicole Marquez-Baker, will be presenting with allies from the ACLU, California Work & Family Coalition, Restaurant Opportunities Center of the Bay, and the UC Berkeley Labor Occupational Health Program.
Register Here
In Memoriam: Joan Lichterman

It is with great sadness that we share the news of Joan Lichterman's recent passing. Did you know Joan? She was a wonderful friend and comrade with deep roots in the labor movement and a true passion for worker health and safety. She was an activist throughout her life, and she brought her big heart and compassion to every issue she was involved in. She wanted to make the world a better place – and indeed she did. Joan was a longtime Worksafe ally, donor, and volunteer. A true blue friend we will miss dearly.
Summer Fundraiser Update

We are *so thankful* for the support we've received so far during this fundraising effort. Many individuals and organizations have pitched in to help us keep fighting for California’s vulnerable workers. It means a lot, and we pledge to put these gifts to good use.

At Worksafe, our vision of a world where everyone has the right to safe and healthy employment remains. And we continue to work towards that goal despite, and becuase of, these turbulent times. If you’d like to support our work and are in a position to help, please donate today.
Donate Here
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