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November 2020

Protect CA Workers from COVID19
California Workers Gain Sweeping New Workplace Protections from COVID-19

Big news! In response to calls from workers and advocates, the Cal/OSHA Standards Board voted 6-0 to adopt new emergency rules designed to strengthen COVID-19 protections for all California workers.

This means there are now specific, mandatory requirements employers must follow to reduce transmission of the virus at worksites, and Cal/OSHA now has stronger tools to ensure that employers follow basic protocols, such as maintaining physical distance between workers. Read our preliminary analysis here.

An incredible coalition of 45+ occupational health and safety organizations, labor unions, worker centers, community groups, and environmental organizations supported this campaign see many of them at the bottom of this page. Dozens of workers and advocates testified at the online meeting, which lasted nearly eight hours.
"California has taken a step forward to ensure workers are protected in the workplace. Now, it's time to work towards strong implementation and enforcement of this vital new standard." - Zenaida Perez Fuentes, SoCalCOSH

“The farmworkers who harvest and pack the food we eat have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic. Adoption and enforcement of this standard will make the fields and packing houses safer.” - Anne Katten, CRLAF

“A powerful emergency standard was long overdue, but we are filled with hope knowing that stronger protections have been adopted for California's restaurant workforce. This is one stride on a long road to care and justice and we hope it inspires more change with our people’s safety and wellbeing in mind." - Maria Moreno, ROC the Bay

“We are thrilled to see the passage of the Covid-19 Emergency Temporary Standard. Janitors desperately need these Covid protections in their workplace in conjunction with aggressive enforcement of this new standard." - Yardenna Aaron, MCTF
Worksafe gives huge thanks to everyone involved with this campaign: those who crafted strategy, wrote letters, testified, and helped spread the word. It was truly a movement-wide effort made possible by dedicated workers and advocates from around the state. And big props to Maggie Robbins, Worksafe’s Occupational and Environmental Health Specialist, for her hard work and leadership. 

The difficult work of outreach, education, and enforcement lies ahead – and we will do it together!

Rachel Reyes, retail worker and LAANE advocate, testifies
Michael Young, California Federation of Teachers, testifies
Stan Santos, Fresno-Madera-Tulare-Kings Central Labor Council
Bay Area Janitorial Workers Blow the Whistle on Health and Safety Violations

After an investigation conducted by the Maintenance Cooperation Trust Fund, janitorial workers, with the aid of Worksafe and Centro Legal de la Raza, filed complaints with Cal/OSHA because workers were being exposed to harsh chemicals without proper training, personal protective equipment, or emergency protocol. The citations, issued at the end of August, total more than $42,000 and cover one office building. Centro Legal de la Raza also filed individual retaliation and wage theft complaints on behalf of workers against this employer.
 
“The violations at AG underscore the problems in the janitorial industry. Too many people working as janitors are denied even basic workplace protections. These companies often operate underground but above the law, with no accountability. These citations are significant because they expose a disregard for workers’ safety and the laws meant to regulate the industry. The citations are a warning to other irresponsible contractors who operate their businesses at the expense of workers,” said Worksafe Staff Attorney Karín Umfrey. Read the full press release here.

 State Assembly Hearing: Safeguarding Our Frontline Workers from COVID-19
Stephen Knight Testifying Karin Umfrey Testimony
Last week the Labor and Employment Committee of the California State Assembly held an informational hearing about the impact of COVID-19 on the state’s essential workforce.
 
Worksafe was honored to participate in the hearing; Executive Director Stephen Knight and Staff Attorney Karín Umfrey delivered our remarks. The committee, chaired by Assemblymember Ash Kalra, also heard powerful testimony from workers and advocates from the United Food and Commercial Workers, United Farm Workers Foundation, Warehouse Worker Resource Center, and others. You can read our full testimony here.

CLIWA: Building Solidarity with Legal Aid and Worker Advocacy Orgs

Worksafe is a proud member of the Coalition of Low-Wage and Immigrant Worker Advocates (CLIWA), and this year Thais Forneret, Worksafe's Director of Development and Operations, and Karín Umfrey helped coordinate the very first virtual CLIWA retreat. The four-day program in early November covered a range of labor and employment law issues: wage and hour, unemployment, health and safety, and retaliation. Attendees discussed how to move forward on legislative priorities and administrative advocacy in 2021. Worksafe provided continued education credits for nearly 100 attorneys who attended the retreat. 
 
Staff from Worksafe, Warehouse Workers Resource Center, and the Katharine & George Alexander Community Law Center facilitated a workshop to engage CLIWA members in discussions of race equity, diversity, and inclusion in our organizations.

In breakout groups, participants shared helpful practices and brainstormed how to best equip themselves and their organizations to discuss and address racial inequities. In 2021, Worksafe will continue to engage internally, and with our partner organizations, on these issues in the occupational safety and legal aid fields.

Help Us Raise $21,000 by 2021!
Health Happens at Work
Worksafe recently launched our year-end fundraising drive, and we’re hoping to raise $21,000 by January 1st. Awesomely, folks have contributed about $3,500 so far! Thank you to everyone who already pitched in, including several new donors. We see you, and we are humbled by your generosity! As one of our supporters put it:
"I give to Worksafe each December because I value their unique work [...] not many organizations do what they do. This year I've been especially concerned about staying safe on the job because of Covid, so I'm glad to know I have workplace health and safety experts in my corner." - Richard Chasey
Worksafe doesn’t charge for our services – we mobilize legal assistance for workers in need, and we deliver trainings to help workers and advocates learn the ins-and-outs of occupational health and safety law. Our ability to reach workers in California is directly tied to the generosity of our donors. Please consider making a secure, tax-deductible donation today. We're small, so any amount helps, we promise!
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Will We See You at #COSHCON2020?

This year, more than ever, we need to come together to learn, strategize, and take action for safety and health. Will you join us at the National Conference on Worker Safety and Health (COSHCON2020), hosted by National COSH? It is being held virtually: December 1-3 and 8-10. With over 30 sessions, you can choose what you want to attend! To make it truly accessible, minimal registration contributions are accepted but not required. Register here, and don’t miss the opportunity to attend this one-of-a-kind conference!
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