March 2019 News & Views

Why Integrity Matters

On Tuesday, the California State Auditor released the agency’s report on its investigation into complaints of misconduct against Department of Industrial Relations former Director Christine Baker.
Boxer & Gerson partner Julius Young describes the report as a “sordid tale” of nepotism, disregard for merit-based hiring, attempted retaliation against whistleblowers, race and national origin-motivated perceptions of staff, and an overall culture of fear and reprisal. Julius provides highlights and commentary on his excellent blog, Workers Comp Zone, and I won’t try to outdo him here. Read it for yourself.
A department tasked with protecting workers from labor law violations and employer retaliation must operate with the highest standards. It must hold its own compliance with labor and employment law as a core value, expected of every employee and incorporated into every employee’s performance standards – starting at the top. This was obviously not the case at DIR.
I’m curious how workers and the regulated community will respond to the story. For industry, the report provides an easy and justifiable target for pointing out arrogance and hypocrisy in a key enforcement agency. For workers, it likely confirms the experiences of many that structures of power in this society are stacked against them unless they are “connected” or have the right background.
I’m saddened to see the comments from online readers of media coverage of this story. The responses reflect a perception that this sort of behavior is typical of government officials. If these comments are representative of broader opinion, it is no wonder that so many citizens would come to tolerate political leaders who view their jobs as transactional – and nepotism as a job perk. 
The last thing we need is further corrosion of trust in our institutions, and the auditor’s report on DIR warrants a decisive response. We are optimistic that the new Labor and Workforce Development Secretary, Julie Su, will take this on as she settles into her new role.
Doug Parker
Executive Director
Members of IDEPSCA and the Pasadena Community Job Center at the Standards Board Meeting.
Fired Up: Workers Spur Standards Board to Take Action on Wildfire Smoke

On March 21st, day laborers, farmworkers, and others packed a Cal/OSHA Standards Board meeting in Pasadena to urge action on emergency rulemaking to protect outdoor workers from wildfire smoke.
The workers’ message was heard; the Board voted unanimously in favor of developing an emergency standard.
Worksafe, along with California Labor Federation and California Rural Legal Assistance Foundation, submitted a petition to the Standards Board last December which called for developing an emergency standard on wildfire smoke exposure before the next fire season arrived.
The fate of the petition was uncertain heading into the meeting on the 21st. The Division had recommended full adoption, but Board staff proposed instead to convene an advisory committee to determine whether emergency rulemaking should be initiated, a process that could have delayed action for months or thwarted it altogether.
Workers and advocates made a strong case at the hearing for more urgent action. Many told harrowing stories of the smoke conditions and inadequate safety response during the Thomas and Woolsey fires last year. A group of workers stood with signs and chanted “save our lives” throughout the hearing.
Many of our allies helped win this victory through their organizing and testimony, including California Labor Federation, CRLA, CRLAF, CAUSE, IDEPSCA, MICOP, NDLON, SoCal COSH, and UCLA-LOSH. 
The Board’s decision directs the Division to draft an emergency rulemaking proposal for consideration and adoption no later than the July Board meeting. It also directs the Division to convene an advisory committee process to develop a permanent wildfire smoke regulation.
Worksafe and our partners are also supporting current legislation, AB 1124, to require the Board to adopt a permanent wildfire smoke regulation by June 13, 2019.
Stay tuned for opportunities to support all of these efforts moving forward!
Worksafe Welcomes New Staff

Worksafe grew our ranks this month with the addition of Maggie Robbins, MPH  our new Occupational & Environmental Health Specialist! Read Maggie's full bio here.
Q: Why Worksafe? 
I started working in California in the 1990s for SEIU on workplace safety and health. I was quickly looped into the campaign for an ergonomics standard that went on for a number of years. That's when I first learned about the unique role Worksafe fills to marshal collective efforts to protect people at work. The array of advocates who came together, headed up by the California Labor Federation and Worksafe, involved a number of unions and organizations of injured workers. We made some progress against a very strong current of opposition, both nationally and in California. I'm delighted and excited to join the team moving today's campaigns.
Q: What will you be working on?
I'm talking with our stakeholders about strategies to tackle the failed regulatory process for protecting workers from harmful chemicals. The chemical-by-chemical approach is virtually unable to limit chemicals at the national level, and in California it is only slightly more effective – it is still failing to regulate the vast majority of chemicals of concern. Throwing more staff and money at the current processes will not fix it. We need alternatives.
Q: What about when you're not working?
I love being outdoors. Bicycle riding in the Bay Area (and state) is a way I especially enjoy being outdoors, though a walk by the water comes in a close second. I'm also a lapsed bookwormtrying to find time to relapse!
May 16: You're Invited!

Worksafe’s 37th Anniversary Celebration, Onward & Upward: Elevating Worker Health & Safety in California, is happening on May 16th from 6PM to 9PM in Berkeley. We hope you'll join as we honor our 2019 Health & Safety Heroes:
  • Deeg Gold, former Cal/OSHA Deputy Chief for Health, for their years of leadership and activism in service of California workers.
  • Dr. Brenda Eskenazi, UC Berkeley Professor of Epidemiology, for her research and teaching in the field of environmental health, and for her work related to pesticide exposures among farmworkers and their children.
  • UNITE HERE California Affiliated Locals & UNITE HERE International for their tireless efforts to win stronger musculoskeletal injury protections for hotel housekeepers.
Guests will enjoy hearty hors d'oeuvres, a hosted bar, and the chance to win some fun raffle prizes.
Tip: Get your tickets before April 11th to score the Early Bird Discount! Sponsorship packages are available, too!
Hey Bay Area! Won't you be our neighbor? Worksafe has a sunny suite to sublet in our downtown Oakland building, available immediately!
1736 Franklin Exterior
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