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January 2019 News & Updates

Shutting Down Worker Protections

I worked through two shutdowns at the Department of Labor (DoL). It was my job to work with our lawyers to determine which agency activities were permitted under law and which were not. There are several exceptions that permit some government activities during a shutdown. The primary exception is for agencies to continue activities that protect life and property.
While there is some room for interpretation on what that means, when I was at the Labor Department it was clear that rulemaking, even on important health regulations like the rule we were writing to protect coal miners from black lung, didn’t fall into that category. No one in our agency that engaged in rulemaking was permitted to work.
Of course, we know by now that those rules don’t apply in this Administration. Activities that would hurt this Administration politically if stopped have been continued.
Yesterday, in a handout to corporate interests, it issued a final rule rolling back much of the Obama-era OSHA rule requiring electronic reporting of workplace injuries. While DoL is currently funded, the agency that conducts the final review and approval of the rule, the Office of Management and Budget, is not. OMB acted illegally when it reviewed and approved this rule.
Citing “privacy concerns,” the Administration stripped away the requirement that employers electronically submit both their injury logs and injury reports in a format that would be made public. The changes limit the rule to requiring employers only report annual totals of hours worked, number of injuries and illnesses, and total of lost or restricted work days. 
I’ve written about this rule a few times. I worked in a data-rich agency, the Mine Safety and Health Administration, where most serious injuries are reported within days, and extensive data on all injuries is reported quarterly. I have seen how injury data combined with enforcement data is used to help identify both problem employers and dangerous industry-wide trends, and how making basic information public drives private investment in safety improvements. 
Oh, and there were no issues with data privacy. OSHA, MSHA’s sister agency, is a data-poor agency. Absurdly, one of the Administration’s justifications for cutting back the rule was that if OSHA had better data and it was public, employers could predict OSHA’s enforcement patterns. The Administration prefers the status quo, where only employers see injury trends and OSHA operates with blinders.
It angers and saddens me to see federal workers suffering the painful consequences of this shutdown. In my experience, most public servants who are called to work without pay do so willingly and with a sense of duty. It is bad enough to use these workers as conscripted labor. It is unconscionable to then direct them to break the law in order to make workers less safe. 
Doug Parker
Executive Director
Join Our Push to Protect Workers from Wildfire Smoke

As catastrophic wildfires spread across the state last year, it became clear that California must do more to protect workers when the air quality reaches unhealthy levels.
That’s why the California Labor Federation, Worksafe, and California Rural Legal Assistance Foundation have submitted a petition to Cal/OSHA requesting an emergency standard to protect outdoor workers from wildfire smoke. We are recommending that the standard require employers to implement necessary controls when the Air Quality Index reaches unhealthful levels. 
We submitted the petition, which you can read here, at the December 13th Standards Board meeting in Sacramento. The board has 6 months to decide whether to move forward in creating a standard.
Have you – or other workers you know – been impacted by wildfire smoke while working outdoors? Contact Mara Ortenburger at to share your experience and/or get involved in the push for stronger protections.
Making the CASE for Safe & Secure Work

In 2017, through a special partnership with the Warehouse Worker Resource Center (WWRC), Worksafe helped launch the California Alliance for Secure Employment (CASE), an informal network of organizations focused on improving workplace conditions and rights for temporary and contingent workers. 
In a milestone for the alliance, CASE held a second annual convening this past November in Oakland. Organized with the East Bay Alliance for a Sustainable Economy, National Employment Law Project, Southern California COSH, WWRC, and Working Partnerships USA, the CASE convening brought together 49 staff members from 32 organizations for a full day of discussion on issues related to precarious work.
Attendees discussed the broad implications of an economy where jobs are increasingly precarious and insecure, as well as the particular issues faced by contingent workers such as day laborers, domestic workers, temporary workers, misclassified workers, retail workers with unpredictable schedules, and black workers facing barriers to employment from racial discrimination.
The group shared common excitement for collaborating on a broad platform for secure work, and brainstormed strategies and priorities for shared work in the years ahead. Moving forward, CASE will continue developing a long-term agenda while engaging in current organizing and policy campaigns on specific issues such as discrimination, retaliation, and misclassification – with a particular focus on the legislative fight in Sacramento this year to codify the Dynamex test for employee status.
If you would like to learn more about CASE or to join the coalition’s efforts, please contact Tim Shadix at
Thank You to Our Supporters
Thanks to many of you, our 2018 end-of-year giving campaign was a great success. We exceeded our fundraising goal and secured a $8k matching gift along the way. We are humbled by this outpouring of support, and we’re ready to jump into another productive year advocating for workplace safety, health, and justice!
Want to know more about our activities in the past year? Our 2018 Impact Report is a great overview!
Save the Date: May 16!
Mark your calendars! We are excited to announce that Worksafe’s 37th Anniversary Celebration will take place on Thursday, May 16 at the Ed Roberts Campus in Berkeley. Stay tuned for more information about our 2019 Health and Safety Heroes. In the meantime, take a look at out our gallery of former honorees!
Hey Bay Area: won't you be our neighbor? Worksafe has a sunny suite to sublet in our downtown Oakland building, available immediately!
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