Under orders from Governor Jerry Brown’s Department of Finance, Cal/OSHA has begun cutting field enforcement inspector positions, reversing years of public and legislative efforts to bring California’s workplace safety agency up to the level of personnel and resources enjoyed by Federal and neighboring states’ OSHA agencies.
It’s time for federal lawmakers to catch up with the quickly changing relationship between employers and workers; an upcoming Supreme Court case could upend public-sector unions; New York farmworker loses court case to gain organizing rights, but vows to appeal; and the country’s biggest janitorial company faces new allegations of sexual abuse in the workplace.
Yolanda Baron Carmona, 52, and Maria Rodriguez, 46, are celebrating a victory for themselves and all of California’s hotel housekeepers. Soon the state will require lodging establishments to identify and address hazards that put housekeepers at risk of back injuries and other musculoskeletal disorders.
An Oklahoma rehab center funnels forced free labor into private industry; the National Labor Relations Board reconsiders Obama-era union election rules; farmworkers at risk from California’s wildfire smoke; and domestic workers organize for greater labor rights in Seattle.
Local efforts help California nail salons create healthier working conditions; California court ruling a win for farm workers and labor unions; Milwaukee institutes new safety measures after a city employee is shot and killed; and flight attendants chronicle sexual harassment in the skies.
In the last two years, the California Legislature has provided the Department of Industrial Relations with significantly increased financial resources to enhance the effectiveness of Cal/OSHA and better protect the 19 million workers in the state. DIR has failed to take full advantage of these resources to strengthen Cal/OSHA while at the same time it has provided refunds to employers who have paid the fees that generate these unused resources. The net effect is a Cal/OSHA that is weaker and less effective than it could be if all available resources were put to work. The people who pay the cost of these resources “left on the table” are the workers of California and their families and communities.
The feds grant billions in contracts to shipbuilders with serious worker safety lapses; Texas lawmakers want to undo an Austin initiative that protects construction workers; Chevron agrees to highest fine in Cal/OSHA history after refinery fire; and Democrats hope to ban a dangerous pesticide after EPA fails to act.
Business lobbyists in California claim proposed worker safety rules for heat illness prevention are on too fast a track. They might think differently if they set up their desk in a warehouse or laundry without air conditioning.
Dozens of safety inspector positions in California are vacant while workplace fatalities and injuries in the state are on the rise. Cal/OSHA has had an average of 34 vacant field enforcement positions a month since July 2015, which means that more than $10 million in state-authorized funding was left unused.
Environmental justice and labor groups in California were relentless in their demand to make refineries safer. Their years of effort paid off with an announcement last week by the state of new refinery safety regulations.