October 2020

Reimagining Work
By Nicole Marquez-Baker

The way workplace hazards impact workers, particularly workers of color, is nothing new. When I started with Worksafe in 2012, we were helping Warehouse Worker Resource Center (at the time Warehouse Workers United) file a Cal/OSHA complaint. Domingo Blancas, a Latino immigrant, had fallen ill while working in an extremely hot warehouse in Ontario, California. Like many temporary warehouse workers, Domingo had never been trained on heat illness symptoms or emergency procedures. In fact, his employer disregarded his pleas for help. 
Domingo’s life is precious and unique; there is only one of him. Sadly, his employer’s callous attitude is not unique at all. During my time at Worksafe, I have seen that tolerance for workplace harm has always been oppressive rooted in racism and classism. It's a system that normalizes treating black and brown workers as disposable, forgettable, and replaceable. 
Domingo survived heat stroke after being hospitalized for three days. His experience with indoor heat hazards – along with many other workers of color, immigrant workers, and low-paid workers – influenced a change in the law in 2016. SB 1167 (Mendoza) required Cal/OSHA to create a standard with specific employer requirements for indoor heat protections by 2019. It's now ten months into 2020, and that standard has yet to be finalized. To me, this serves as a reminder that advocacy does not end when a change is made on paper. We have to keep fighting until change is executed and enforced
Now, as I leave Worksafe, COVID-19 is highlighting just how dangerous work has always been for black and brown workers like Domingo. Some of these workers are still carved out of Cal/OSHA protections. This reality has catapulted us into reimagining our relationship with work. And workers are leading important changes – whether through legislative advocacy to gain Cal/OSHA coverage for domestic workers and day laborers or by pushing for stronger workplace protections from hazards like COVID-19
As I reflect on my time with Worksafe, I’m grateful for our successful advocacy on behalf of folks like Domingo. As a woman of color, I take great pride in being able to serve as conduit for my community. I’m filled with a great sense of appreciation for this work and a great sense of responsibility to keep moving the dial towards justice. Together, we can change this paradigm.
Justice is not self-executing, justice takes work! Adelante! 
Thank You, Nicole!

After eight years with Worksafe, our Director of Policy and Legal Services, Nicole Marquez-Baker, is moving on! She is now the Director of Social Insurance at the National Employment Law Project an awesome attorney paired with an outstanding organization.

joined Worksafe on June 1st, 2012, and by all accounts she hit the ground running. From the start, Nicole was fielding calls from workers, strategizing to build worker power, and strengthening Worksafe’s relationships with labor advocates, social justice groups, and legal aid organizations throughout the state. Thanks to her initiative, Worksafe has evolved to be a recognized leader in the field of worker justice – more intersectional in our analysis and more impactful in our work. Nicole was instrumental in our efforts to pass strong Cal/OSHA standards for heat exposure, musculoskeletal injury in hotel housekeeping, and wildfire smoke hazards. Plus, she is a joy to work with.

We can’t wait to collaborate with her and NELP in the future. Please join us in congratulating Nicole on her new position!

 New Video: Protecting Yourself at Work During Coronavirus - Safety, Negotiation, Organizing
Worksafe has collaborated with workers' rights attorney Scott Hochberg and the Skadden Foundation to produce two animated videos about workplace health and safety rights during COVID. The videos, available in English and Spanish, are intended to be accessible for a range of worker audiences. 
The videos explain how workers can keep themselves and their coworkers safe at work during the pandemic, and how workers can approach their employers to demand changes that keep everyone safe. They also cover additional strategies, from organizing support and legal help, to contacting government agencies. Please share widely!

Ride-Hail Drivers Deserve Protections & Benefits

This November, California voters are being asked to support Proposition 22 – Uber and Lyft’s misleading ballot measure that would exempt them from obeying labor laws that protect workers. Together with Postmates, Instacart, and Doordash, these wealthy corporations are spending nearly $200 million to advertise this campaign, making it the most expensive ballot measure in US history.

California law classifies ride-hail drivers as employees. Uber, Lyft, and other app companies want voters to 'OK' a special exemption that will let them keep misclassifying drivers as independent contractors. A slew of protections and benefits hang in the balance: paid sick leave, workers’ compensation, unemployment insurance, and more.

These companies are trying to pay their way out of following the law, attempting to enact a new employment regime that disregards driver safety and wellbeing. If Prop 22 passes, they will not have to do things like provide PPE, ensure access to sanitary facilities, or plan for the risk of workplace violence and sexual harassment. Unacceptable at any time; unconscionable in 2020.

Learn more about Proposition 22 here – including ways to get involved in the campaign to defeat it on November 3rd. Follow @VoteNoOnProp22 for updates and shareable content.

"Right to Refuse" Fact Sheet Now in Vietnamese
We just posted a Vietnamese version of our fact sheet: Understanding the Right to Refuse Unsafe Work in California. 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. It is also available in English and SpanishPlease read and share!
Meet Worksafe's Health & Safety Intern

This summer, Worksafe benefited from the support of a great intern: Ashton Smith, a rising senior at UC Berkeley. Ashton provided crucial support during a very busy season. We caught up with her before the internship ended to get her take on the experience:

Q: What are some of the projects you worked on this summer?
A: This summer I worked remotely on a variety of projects with the Worksafe team. My first project involved contacting California legislators about the need for an Emergency Temporary Standard for COVID-19 hazards. I also conducted research on AB5 and the Proposition 22 ballot initiative in order to help with Worksafe's outreach. #NoOnProp22! 

Q: What do you think is the most pressing issue facing workers in 2020?
A: As temperatures approach an all-time high in Northern California, I think occupational exposure to heat hazards is at the forefront of workers' rights issues in the state. For that reason, I am studying Environmental Economics and Policy at Cal so I will be equipped to address the intersections of environmental issues and public health after graduation.   

Q: What is the biggest takeaway from your summer at Worksafe?
A: My biggest take-away from my summer at Worksafe is that a small team of dedicated people has the ability to enact real change. I am honored to be able to meet, and work alongside, all the passionate worker’s rights advocates at Worksafe. Thank you all for your guidance and support!

Thank you, Ashton, for your hard work this summer. Best of luck in your next endeavor!
#COSHCON2020 Registration Now Open!

The National Conference on Worker Safety and Health is the only national gathering of its kind, and this year it is going virtual! Join us December 1-3 and 8-10 for this special event, hosted by National COSH.

#COSHCON2020 brings together a diverse, inclusive, and bilingual group of workers, OSH experts, unions, activists, and academics. Together, we learn about ongoing and emerging worker health and safety issues, and we organize ourselves to build worker power and make our workplaces safer. With a global pandemic endangering so many workers, all of this matters more than ever.

Register for the
conference herehttps://nationalcosh.org/COSHCON2020.
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