February 2021

New Administration Brings Opportunities to Advance Worker Health & Safety

Last week National COSH released the National Agenda for Worker Safety and Health. The report lays out a eight-point plan for national reform based on workers’ lived experience, recommending that we strengthen and enforce safety laws, make anti-retaliation protections real, ensure fair and just compensation, and confront the workplace effects of climate change.
“Workers are sick, broke and dying — because so far during this pandemic, employers, OSHA and our federal government have failed to protect workers from the risk of infectious disease,” said Jessica Martinez, National COSH’s Co-Executive Director.
Worksafe agrees that the new administration needs to reaffirm a commitment to occupational health and safety science, and it needs to send a clear message to employers and the general public that workplace health and safety is key to public health — and absolutely crucial for slowing the spread of COVID

There are initial positive signs. On his first day in office, the new president signed an executive order (EO) prioritizing worker protection issues. And barely a week later, on January 29, the Department of Labor issued guidance “intended to inform employers and workers in most workplace settings outside of healthcare to help them identify risks of being exposed to and/or contracting COVID-19 at work and to help them determine appropriate control measures."

The president has appointed longtime worker advocates: Labor Secretary Marty Walsh and Deputy Secretary Julie Su (who will soon leave her role heading California’s labor agency). Occupational safety leaders like David Michaels and Doug Parker are advising the administration. President Biden’s January 21 EO ordered the Department of Labor to “consider whether any emergency temporary standards on COVID-19, including with respect to masks in the workplace, are necessary, and if such standards are determined to be necessary, issue them by March 15, 2021.”

In California of course we have our own “state plan” governing workplace health and safety requirements, aka Cal/OSHA. But there’s still a role for federal involvement, including greater support in terms of resources as well as advocacy in the form of oversight and accountability. We are glad to endorse National COSH’s call in the Agenda to “bolster oversight of OSHA state plans, ensuring that these jurisdictions enact and effectively enforce measures that are at least as effective as […] OSHA requirements.”
The labor agency was intentionally sidelined by the Trump Administration in the middle of an unprecedented workplace safety crisis. It is crucial that President Biden upend this sorry record. The Department of Labor must incorporate the expertise of the occupational health and safety community, including impacted workers. We must make clear that after what our communities have learned and endured in the last few years — we cannot go back to 2016. We must move forward to a far stronger place of voice and power for workers and worker safety.

In Solidarity,
Stephen Knight
Worksafe Executive Director
Worksafe Welcomes New Staff Attorney

We are excited to announce that AnaStacia Nicol Wright has joined the Worksafe team as our new Staff Attorney. AnaStacia is an experienced advocate for worker justice, and we are thrilled to have her on board. Read her full bio here
Q: What sparked your interest in worker health and safety? Or Worksafe in particular?
The intersections of wealth, race, and poverty have always interested me, particularly with regards to minority families and the accumulation of wealth. That why Worksafe’s mission of preventing illness, injury, and death by bringing justice to the workplace caught my attention. Ensuring people have safe places to work helps guarantee them steady income. Steady income, in this capitalist society, is one of the strongest forms of security we have. Advocating for that security on the behalf of marginalized communities is what I want to do with my legal career. 
Q: What have you been working on so far? 
I've been working with the Legal Team on outreach projects aimed at connecting underserved worker communities to information and services related to COVID-19. I have also been attending various coalition meetings to get up to speed on what California’s health and safety community is working on. 
Q: What do you do for fun? 
These days, buying Lysol spray and sanitizing wipes gives me a sad sense of joy. Otherwise, I'm probably tending to my struggling plants while binging Supernatural.

Recent Outreach: Spreading Word of the ETS
Karin Umfrey Training Maggie Robbins Training
Worksafe and our allies spent much of 2020 working to secure an Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) to protect workers from COVID-19. It was a movement-wide effort made possible by dedicated workers and advocates from around the state. Of course, regulations are meaningless without the difficult work of outreach, education, and enforcement. So we've been busy!
Staff Attorney Karín Umfrey recently partnered with Restaurant Opportunities Center of Los Angeles (ROC-LA) on two Spanish-language Facebook Live events. The first training was a foundational conversation about occupational health and safety, covering how to identify workplace hazards including psychosocial stressors. The second training presented an overview of the COVID ETS, clarifying new protections and employer obligations.
Maggie Robbins, Worksafe’s Occupational & Environmental Health Specialist, has also been making the rounds, providing training to groups like Teamsters Local 2010, UFCW Western States Council, and the San Mateo Central Labor Council. 
Would your organization like a free training about the COVID Prevention Emergency Temporary Standard? If so, please contact us here. Also, be sure to check out these great fact sheets from the UCLA Labor Occupational Safety & Health Program:
➡️ Worker Protections from COVID-19
➡️ Protecciones de COVID-19 para Trabajadores

Thank you for supporting Worksafe
Big Thanks to Our Supporters!

We're pleased to report that our 2020 end-of-year fundraiser was a great success. We exceeded our $21k by 2021 goal and secured a $10k matching gift along the way! We are humbled by this outpouring of support, and we are already jumping into another year advocating for workplace safety, health, and justice in California.
Didn't get a chance to donate before the end of 2020? No worries – we're always grateful for donations that help sustain our work. Visit our donation page to learn more. And stay tuned because we will soon announce details about Worksafe's 39th Anniversary Celebration, including our 2021 Worker Health and Safety Heroes!

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