Ruble: Reflecting on These We Misplaced| Staff Compensation Information

By Megan Ruble

Wednesday, May 12, 2021 | 0

On April 28, the 50th anniversary of the Occupational Safety and Health Act was celebrated. This law created the Occupational Safety and Health Agency (OSHA) which, thanks to the determined efforts of the labor movement, revolutionized safety in the workplace.

Megan Ruble

For the first time, workers had the right to a secure job. In the first 50 years, deaths, injuries and illness in the workplace were reduced significantly.

However, progress has slowed. Nationally, the workplace death rate has reached a plateau. The workplace is still too dangerous. Injuries and deaths in the workplace have a disproportionately high impact on black workers, who are more likely to work in hazardous occupations.

Each year on this anniversary, we honor those who were injured or killed at work on Workers Memorial Day, and we reflect on the consequences of unsafe work.

Over the past year, the high cost to California’s key workforce from the COVID-19 pandemic has reminded us of the work that remains to be done to keep workers safe.

A study by the UC Merced Community and Labor Center looked at the impact of the pandemic on California workers in high-risk industries. Workers in 10 industries saw deaths increase by more than 30% in 2020.

Warehouse workers, grocery chain workers, farm workers and food processing workers saw the highest increases in pandemic deaths.

The industries with the highest increases in deaths tend to have higher rates of migrant workers or non-citizens. Often these workers live in larger multi-family households. They earn lower wages and suffer from much higher rates of poverty.

Despite these dire statistics, dozens of organizations have worked tirelessly on the pandemic to provide resources and support to the most vulnerable populations.

The Oakland-based Street Level Health Project provides services to immigrant communities to ensure equitable access to uninsured and underinsured individuals. During the pandemic, her team took to the streets to provide food, personal protective equipment and vaccination updates, including one-on-one assistance to day laborers and their families.

The California Healthy Nail Salon Collaborative is a grassroots organization that addresses social issues faced by their mostly female, low-income Vietnamese immigrants. The cooperation provided the salon workers with extensive information in English and Vietnamese. It meets and trains workers and has supported and trained them through significant language and technological barriers throughout the pandemic.

The full list of the incredible work these organizations are doing can be found here.

Over the past 50 years OSHA and the work of many organizations have improved the safety and conditions for countless workers. But when we remember those who lost their lives or were injured at work, we need to recognize the inequalities that put the poorest and most marginalized workers into the most dangerous jobs, and we need to keep fighting for safer working conditions.

Modesto’s attorney, Megan Ruble, is the executive committee secretary of the California Applicants’ Attorneys Association. This statement is republished with permission from the CAAA website.

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