April 18, 2017 Kim Krisberg 1Comment

At Bloomberg BNA, Stephen Lee reports that with fears of deportation looming, undocumented immigrants are becoming afraid to access legal remedies when they’re injured on the job. The article notes that such immigrants are disproportionately employed in hazardous jobs and while they account for just 15 percent of the overall workforce, they account for 18 percent of occupational fatalities. Lee writes:

Sofia, a Mexican fieldworker in Santa Rosa, Calif., has a workers’ compensation case in the works after hurting her arm and shoulder pulling vine roots, requiring surgery. But she says she’s reluctant to show up to her dates with the workers’ compensation administrative court—and even go to the doctor—because of the Trump administration’s tough stance.

“My life has changed a lot,” Sofia told Bloomberg BNA through a translator. “I don’t go out. Everything you hear on the news tells you to be careful, because immigration agents will be there to grab you. I’m very afraid. I now live a life that is pretty much enclosed, indoors. I tell my husband every day to be careful when you drive, because you could get a ticket and that could be a pretense for them to arrest you.”

Rosita, a 40-year old cleanup worker from Mexico who now lives in Suisun City, Calif., is going through the workers’ compensation system after hurting her hands and right arm while cleaning heavy equipment in 2014. But once she heals, she isn’t sure what she’ll do.

“I’m afraid of returning to work,” Rosita told Bloomberg BNA, also through a translator. “I don’t feel confident enough to go back to work. With the new president and all the changes, I’m definitely afraid.”

Read the full article at Bloomberg BNA.

In other news:

BuzzFeed News: Cora Lewis reports that women members of the Iron Workers Union will now get six months of paid maternity leave that they can take before giving birth. The benefit is believed to be a first of its kind for the building industry and was partly in response to so many women leaving the sector for other professions. The union is home to about 2,100 women workers. Lewis reports: “The numbers put maternity leave for iron-working women on par with corporate employees at tech companies like Etsy, Adobe, Spotify and Cisco. Netflix and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation are among the only companies that offer workers more paid parental leave, according to data gathered by Care@Work, which specializes in family benefits.”

CNN: Shefali Luthra reports that despite caring others’ health, many home health workers still lack health insurance coverage of their own. From 2010 to 2014, about 500,000 such workers got coverage through the Affordable Care Act, with most of those gains due to Medicaid expansions. Still, about one in every five home health workers don’t have insurance. Luthra writes: “The current air of uncertainty adds an extra layer of concern. Under the 2010 law, ‘at least we were on a path’ to addressing coverage and access concerns, said Elly Kugler, the federal policy director at the National Domestic Workers Alliance, a coalition that represents home care providers. If it goes away, she said, it’s not so clear how these workers will access health care.”

San Francisco Examiner: In an opinion piece, Porfirio Quintano writes about the decision of his union — the National Union of Healthcare Workers — to declare itself a “sanctuary union” and protect its members against heightened deportation threats as well as defend them against management retaliation. The union is partnering with San Francisco-area immigration lawyers to represent members at risk of deportation as well as educating its members on their legal rights. Quintano writes: “During the union meeting I attended in San Francisco earlier this year, two members questioned becoming a sanctuary union, fearful that we would be ‘protecting criminals.’ It fell upon me and another member to explain that our goal wasn’t to hide our undocumented brothers and sisters, but to guarantee them due process. The right to representation is one principle all union members can rally around.”

Minneapolis Star Tribune: Adam Belz reports that protestors are facing off on whether servers should be exempt from a Minneapolis minimum wage hike. The article reports that City Council member have signaled support for a $15 minimum wage without a tip carveout. Protestors on both sides of the carveout debate demonstrated outside a local restaurant earlier this week. Belz reports: “About 35 people protested what they said would be wage theft, and to argue that the Minneapolis City Council should enact a $15 minimum wage that does not exempt servers, bartenders and other tipped workers. They held banners and several wore the red shirts of the 15 Now coalition. Just after noon, about 50 people in the light green and blue of the Pathway to $15 coalition marched up University Avenue toward the other protesters, chanting ‘Whose tips? Our tips!’”

Kim Krisberg is a freelance public health writer living in Austin, Texas, and has been writing about public health for 15 years. Follow me on Twitter — @kkrisberg.

One thought on “Occupational Health News Roundup

  1. Int he city of Seattle (and possibly the whole state of Washington) the minimum wage applies to everyone, tipped or not. It’s never changed the way I tip.
    I feel like telling servers that it is their job to get up to minimum wage with tips leaves them very vulnerable to abuse by patrons.

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