More than nine workers have died at the Livingston Foster Farm plant who should have been protected from Covid-19.
In March and April of this year, workers, families, community organization, and worker advocates were calling on Foster Farms and other companies to protect their workers with social distancing, testing and tracing.
The company refused to inform workers in the plant about the dangers of the virus and how to protect them in the different languages, although this is the law in California.
Foster Farms workers have also been coerced by bosses to work when sick, and have been forced to use their sick pay instead of being paid by the company for its failure to protect them. This is also illegal.
Workers, family members, and community groups also called on Cal-OSHA to do their job and make sure that protection rules were enforced by Cal-OSHA which has less than 200 inspectors for 18 million workers and most are not bi-lingual. There are only a handful of inspectors of Central Valley for tens of thousands of workers at many agricultural industrial operations.
Governor Gavin Newsom has instituted a State furlough of 2 days off a month which means that Cal-OSHA in- spectors are only working 18 days a month in the midst of the biggest pandemic in 100 years.
Foster Farms continues to push production and profits over the lives of the workers. They should be criminally prosecuted for failing to protect the lives of the workers and workers comp fraud by the Merced District Attorney and State Attorney General Xavier Becerra.
Today, the workers are dead and hundreds of workers and their families as well as thousands in the community are infected with the deadly virus.
Most of these frontline workers are LatinX, Punjabi Sikh immigrants and their lives apparently of little value. This is part and parcel of systemic racism especially for frontline workers.
While Governor Newsom visited Big Basin to see the destruction of the trees during the fires, he was not in- terested in visiting Livingston to comfort the families of the dead workers. Apparently trees are more important that worker lives for the governor.
This is a continuing life and death EMERGENCY!
1-The emergency hiring of 1,000 Cal-OSHA inspectors
with proper pay and benefits to keep them.
2-Rank and file health and safety committees at the plant with the power to shutdown the jobs if workers do not have safe conditions.
3-Full healthcare coverage and sick pay for workers and their families who have become sick and contaminated by the company.
4-Criminal prosecution of the Foster Farm executives by the Merced County District Attorney & State Attorney General of Foster Farm and other companies for the deaths of the workers and workers comp fraud for refusing to provide workers compensation.
The virus has infected workers and entire communities in Central Valley. It is time to stand up for the workers, their families, communities and the people of Central Valley and California
There will also be a caravan from the Bay Area to support the workers and their families.
Initiated by Central Valley vs Covid Coalition
Committee To Stop Police Murders & End Systemic Racism
United Front Committee For A Workers Party
The Foster Farms Covid-19 Deaths & The Community With Deep Singh of The Jakara Movement
Covid, Death & Capitalist Crimes In California's Central Valley
The Covid Pandemic & Central Valley Agricultural Workers
Workers, Liability, The Hero's Act and Health and Safety On The Job With UFCW Local 7 President Kim Cordova
With No Safety, Covid Killing Colorado JBS Workers &
Memorial With UFCW Local 7 President Kim Cordova
UFCW 7 Memorial For 6 JBS Greely, Colorado Workers Who Did Died From Covid
The Death March, Slavery, Meat Plant Workers & Covid-19
Investigation: Counties With Meatpacking Plants Report Twice the National Average Rate of COVID-19 Infections
California Foster Farms Livingston Factory was supposed to close Saturday. What happened instead
BY SHAWN JANSEN
AUGUST 29, 2020 06:43 PM , UPDATED AUGUST 31, 2020 08:35 AM
Governor Gavin Newsom said August 28, 2020, that Californians can expect this week new reopening guidance for counties that show improvement in their coronavirus infection rates and other measures, including testing rates. BY CALIFORNIA GOVERNOR
Foster Farms’ chicken plant in Livingston had its coronavirus-forced shutdown delayed again, this time until Tuesday, Sept. 1, according to the Merced County Department of Public Health.
The plant was given a 48-hour deadline on Thursday to shut down due to an outbreak of COVID-19 cases at the plant, a brief reprieve that had followed a phone call with the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
But the county revised the order Saturday after discussions a day earlier with the company. The plant will be permitted to operate until Tuesday night, then will close for six days until Monday, Sept. 7.
Foster Farms, in a statement the company released on Saturday evening, confirmed the closure will take place Tuesday.
“We agree that the best approach to ensuring the future safety of our Livingston plant workers is to begin anew with a clean slate,” Foster Farms said in the statement.
LCLAA Sacramento Demands Full Staffing Of CalOSHA: CalOSHA is understaffed, and this emergency stimulus package plan must immediately include hiring of 1,000 inspectors, and 500 educators in the realm of work safety relating to COVID-19, to oversee each class of Essential Workers for a safe and healthy work place.
LABOR COUNCIL FOR LATIN AMERICAN ADVANCEMENT
“El Consejo Sindical para el Progreso de los Latino Americanos”
“La Voz Unida” AFL-CIO and CHANGE TO WIN
April 9, 2020
Honorable Governor Newsom of the State of California Dear Governor Newsom,
The Labor Council for Latin American Advancement (LCLAA) AFL-CIO, and Change to Win, Sacramento La Voz Unida Chapter is a National Latino labor constituency group of over 1.5 million. The Sacramento Chapter is long standing for over 20 years. We write to you Governor with serious matters regarding the most underpaid and unprotected workers in California and Mexico; farmworkers.
The working people in our nation are faced with deciding which basic human right their families will have to prioritize. With massive layoffs and reduction of hours across sectors, essential workers’ families will be faced with some critical decisions, for example: paying rent, paying mortgages, buying food, paying for electricity, paying for clean water, paying for childcare, paying for healthcare, and paying for Wifi for online schooling, just to mention a few.
California, the fifth largest economy in the world, should be the leading champion on protecting all workers regardless of status. LCLAA stands in solidarity with all workers, and we support all essential workers, such as farmworkers, grocery workers, security officers and janitors that are facing huge layoffs and reduction of hours throughout the state and are amongst the lowest waged workers faced with having to live paycheck to paycheck and work multiple jobs because the living cost is too high. Now with COVID-19 and more workers being displaced or loss of jobs, families affected could result in an increase in homeless population in California. We stand with workers and organized labor on a global level.
Today we want to highlight the most vulnerable of workers: Farmworkers, healthcare workers, supermarket workers, and distribution workers, and everyone right now who is working during the COVID-19 epidemic that are categorized by the federal government as Essential Workers.
We are extremely concerned and encourage you Governor and the Senate and the Assembly, who have the authority by executive order and by emergency special session to make these demands a reality during this Pandemic. It’s a matter of life and death. It has been estimated that more Essential workers will get sick and or die due to Coronavirus, that also puts their immediate family members in danger. Many essential workers are more likely to contract COVID-19 due to working at their jobs site that requires direct contact with the public, need emergency healthcare, and protective supplies to function without contaminating their immediate family members. Essential Workers face new hazards with COVID-19, and its imperative that with the expectancy to work, there should also be the expectancy for health and labor protections of all workers, especially Essential Workers right now.
Here are our demands:
We are the 5th largest economy in the world, and sell agricultural food to the world. There are over 2.4 million farmworkers in the USA, and it’s estimated half are the undocumented, many who were forced to migrate into the USA due to NAFTA, now NAFTA2.0/USMCA. In Trumps recent economic stimulus package, Congress earmarked $9.5 billion for the Department of Agriculture and $14 billion in loans for the agricultural industry, but none of this money is identified and or directed at farmworkers harvesting food for families across the Nation to eat. We are demanding that Farmworkers benefit from a California stimulus package for loss of wages, and from being excluded from Healthcare coverage. Per the federal government’s Essential Critical Infrastructure, the Farmworker/s is an Essential Worker. The loss of farmworkers, and not including farmworkers in the federal Emergency Stimulus package could hurt California’s economy and possibly create food shortages.
We urge you to take action and implement a California “Emergency Stimulus package” to cover ALL California workers that include farmworkers who should also be given Hazard-Pay during this COVID-19 pandemic, in addition to safety supplies like anti-bacterial soap for hand washing, extra bathrooms, safety protective attire-clothing, and safety boots/foot wear. When visiting the grocery market one must ask, how did these vegetable get here? Who packaged them? Who put the label on these boxes, packages, and or tied bundles of produce together? Who is working while being chemically prayed over to bring food to the table? It is farmworkers who work rain or shine and through Pandemics. We must protect farmworkers now!
When workers are taken care of, the consumer is taken care of. Consumers are eating the food that farmworkers are picking, and when farmworker families are healthy and taken care of, the consumer and their families are taken care of too - with clean food and water, healthy workers, our California economy will flourish.
California must also implement measures for possible future pandemics and put aside a budget and surplus of emergency equipment that would save Californians. Preventative measures are imperative for a strong California economy. We must create Universal Healthcare that would carry workers and families today in California. This is an emergency, and we cannot wait 2 years for Healthcare for All. Right now we need everyone covered in California that includes all workers, immigrants, Asylum seekers, everyone, and visitors. Especially that right now President Trump refused to approve the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (Obama Care) that would allow millions of citizens to enroll into affordable healthcare coverage during this COVID-10 Pandemic.
The immigration crisis is deplorable! The passing of NAFTA 2.O along with foreign policies continue the forced migration legacy creating poverty, separation of families, and fuels the immigration private prisons industry. COVID-19 cases are increasing inside these detention centers that function as concentration camps; while on the outside people are getting emergency medical healthcare, while immigrants, native indigenous people, asylum seekers forced to migrate get no proper, or medical care; they get nothing. Reports have indicated that people are not getting soap, personal hygiene toiletries, medication, assistance from medical personal, and being psychologically tortured everyday through freezer rooms, lights on 24 hrs, placed in over populated spaces/rooms with walls and chained link fences, separation of newly born babies and children bussed out into different states, in addition to children and women being lost inside the system and can not be found; its outrageously inhumane. Governor we are demanding that ALL concentration camps, managed by counties, and or private prisons, etc operating in California today are closed immediately !
Governor CalOSHA is understaffed, and this emergency stimulus package plan must immediately include hiring of 1,000 inspectors, and 500 educators in the realm of work safety relating to COVID-19, to oversee each class of Essential Workers for a safe and healthy work place.
CalOSHA is not doing enough about overseeing protections of farmworkers during this pandemic. Currently there are 128 CalOSHA inspectors for the entire state of California. This is not enough CalOSHA inspectors to oversee the entirety of California’s workforce. CalOSHA is NOT proactive enough in providing safety information, training, or outreach to workers. Nor is CalOsha overseeing the health and welfare labor protections for nurses, who all across the US are making public social media pleas for training and medical supplies such as: masks, respirators, and body protective wear. Today many workers are walking off their jobs due to traces of COVID-19 being identified at their jobs sites, without any safety precautions, training, or outreach on how to perform duties without becoming infected by the Coronavirus.
We also demand protections for farmworkers harvesting fruits and vegetables from Mexico. We are a neighboring state to Mexico and must have stronger labor relations. The farmworkers of San Quintin, BC, Mexico, who harvest the Driscoll berries, along with many other farmworkers who harvest other produce also package, transport, and assemble are hired by US corporations through the NAFTA2.0/ USMCA agreement. The Mexican farmworkers are already under paid, and many live without general amenities like running water, electricity and no child care. We must build stronger labor policies that are fair and protect workers tied through the NAFTA 2.0/ USMCA agreement for the best interest of workers and their families in California and Mexico.
We are also very concerned with the percentage of Mexican workers being laid off like GM Mexican workers, agriculture workers and thousands of workers affected by COVID-19 that impact California and US economy. Mexican workers are producing medical equipment for the USA, and our concern is for workers on both sides; USA and Mexico firing of workers that will cause food, medical, car parts, etc shortages. If we do not take emergency action on these demands, these impacts will no doubt affect California’s economy and the Nation with product coming to a stop out of Mexico into California and USA. The solution is to implement a “California Emergency Stimulus Package” that covers everything mentioned above, build stronger labor relations with Mexico, and to enforce a tax on the wealthiest of Californians, corporations, and oil companies.
We thank you for all you have done to put California first, and proud of your fast action to combat COVID-19. Let's go all the way, let's get a “California Emergency Stimulus Package” that further protects farmworkers and people who were left out of the federal governments stimulus package.
Desirée Bates Rojas
Sacramento Labor Council for Latin American Advancement Sacramento Chapter AFL-CIO, and Change To Win
SACRAMENTO CHAPTER OFFICERS
DESIRÉE ROJAS President CSEA SEIU Local 1000
FRANCISCO R. GARCIA
1st Vice President Local 49/Unite Here
& Stationary Engineers Local 39
2nd Vice President SEIU Local 1000
Secretary SEIU USWW
WALTER GARCIA KAWAMOTO Treasurer Los Rios College Federation of Teachers, AFT Local 2279
Los Rios College Federation of Teachers, AFT Local 2279
UAW Local 2865
P.O. Box 4388 Davis, California 95616 Fed. ID#: 41-2151778
Former Cal/OSHA Inspector Garrett Brown On Cal/OSHA & COVID-19 Pandemic
OSHA Inspections Abandoned By Gavin Newsom and Trump
Covid-19: Workers' Lives at Risk (part 1)
Speak Out Now Online Townhall • Sat. April 4, 2020
Part 1: presentation by Garrett Brown, a workplace health and safety professional with extensive experience in the developing world. He recently retired after over 20 years as a field inspector for Cal/OSHA. Earlier in life, Brown was a journalist in Chicago, and a union organizer in Alabama and Georgia.
Link to Part 2: https://youtu.be/EyuI7x4ciC8
Link to Part 3: https://youtu.be/crmnxAh5TPg
Dear Colleagues: As Cal/OSHA holds its first public Advisory Committee in more than a year tomorrow, I wanted to pass along the information that indicates how much work newly appointed Cal/OSHA Chief Doug Parker and California Labor Secretary Julie Su have in front of them.
In November 2019, there are a total of 46 vacant field compliance officer positions in Cal/OSHA, for a vacancy rate of 18.5%. This is the highest vacancy rate since September 2017, more than two years ago.
Region I (San Francisco Bay Area) is riddled with 18 CSHO vacancies, including 3 of 7 positions in San Francisco, 6 of 11 positions in Fremont, and 3 positions in both Oakland and American Canyon.
There are District Offices in other regions that also have 3 compliance safety and health officer (CSHO) vacancies—which hobbles the offices’ ability to respond to worker complaints and injury incidents – Santa Ana, Van Nuys and the High Hazard Unit (HHU).
In additional to a lack of field inspectors, there are critical vacancies in management positions that undermine the Division’s ability to protect California workers. These include:
Two Regional Manager positions – Region III/Santa Ana and Region VI managing the HHU and the Labor Enforcement Task Force unit (LETF);
Four District Manager positions – Sacramento, Santa Ana, San Bernardino, and the Santa Ana office of LETF;
Two of the three District Offices of the Mining & Tunneling Unit do not have managers; and
Five of 16 Senior Safety Engineer positions in the Enforcement District Offices are vacant.
Moreover, several District Offices with large numbers of field inspectors are without a manager – Sacramento (13 CSHOs), San Bernardino (11 CSHOs) and Santa Ana (9 CSHOs).
It is also worth noting that the Department of Industrial Relations (DIR - parent agency for Cal/OSHA) is still without a Director – 10 months after the inauguration of Governor Gavin Newsom. This raises the question of Governor Newsom’s commitment to workers’ rights – wage & hour and workers compensation, as well as health and safety – and Labor Secretary Julie Su’s ability to fill out her leadership team.
Clearly one of the priorities for Chief Doug Parker is filling these vacancies and providing direction to a Cal/OSHA that has been drifting in limbo for months. Hiring at Cal/OSHA has been limited since the beginning of the year because of the restrictions placed on DIR and DOSH by the California Department of Human Resources. These restrictions were instituted after two reports by the State Personnel Board and the California State Auditor documented nepotism and retaliation against whistle-blowers by then DIR Director Christine Baker, who abruptly retired in 2018.
I wish the news was better….
DOSH Bilingual Pay Sum Chart - Nov 2019.pdf
From: Garrett Brown
Subject: [PWA] Indefinite hiring freeze at Calif Dept of Industrial Relations threatens Cal/OSHA, Labor Commissioner and Workers Comp
Date: May 16, 2019 at 3:20:44 PM PDT
To: PWA list serve
Reply-To: garrettdbrown [at] comcast.net
Dear Colleagues: An indefinite moratorium on hiring and other personnel actions at California’s Department of Industrial Relations – details in the attached alert – threatens immediate and lasting damage to already weakened worker protections agencies at DIR. Affected are all the worker protection divisions of DIR – Cal/OSHA (DOSH), the Labor Commission (DLSE), Workers Comp (DWC) and Apprentice Standards (DAS).
This means the state’s 19 million-plus workers will suffer more job injuries, more wage theft, more delays in workers compensation and the erosion of prevailing wage protections in public works programs getting underway throughout the state. These agencies are already suffering from widespread vacancies at all levels, and the lack of permanent leaders at DIR, Cal/OSHA and the Labor Commissioner’s office.
The personnel crisis at DIR can be addressed before the agencies deteriorate further – but immediate action is needed by Governor Gavin Newson to fill the vacancies in the leadership positions at DIR and to order the California Dept of Human Resources (CalHR) to prioritize hiring to fill the vacancies as soon as possible.
The history of CalHR indicates that only action by the Governor will jolt it into action and end the freeze that is undermining worker protections in California.
Best, Garrett Brown
Fed-OSHA Relaxes Enforcement – Will Cal/OSHA?
Vol: 47 | No: 27 | Published on: May 1, 2020
The Federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration is giving is compliance safety and health officers (CSHOs) discretion on whether to forego citations during an inspection. The discretion is for certain instances when there are considerations related to the COVID-19 virus. Fed-OSHA issued the new directive in light of “difficulties complying with OSHA standards due to the ongoing health emergency.”
The question in California is whether Cal/OSHA’s Division of Occupational Safety and Health is following suit. And if so why, and if not, why not?
Here’s what Fed-OSHA is doing, and the reasons behind it.
Widespread business closures, restrictions on travel, limits on group sizes, facility visitor prohibitions and shelter-in-place orders “may limit the availability of employees, consultants or contractors who normally provide training, auditing, equipment inspections, testing” and other essential safety and industrial hygiene services, the Feds say.
The American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, for instance, has recommended that occupational spirometry (lung function testing) be suspended over fears that it could spread droplets containing COVID-19. And the Council for Accreditation in Occupational Hearing Conservation has recommended suspending audiometric evaluations to minimize risks to healthcare workers and preserve personal protective equipment.
OSHA inspectors will assess an employer’s efforts to comply with recurring audits, reviews, training or assessments, as well as the employer’s good-faith efforts to comply with the applicable standard and ensure that employees have not been exposed to hazards “from tasks, processes or equipment for which they were not prepared or trained.”
Good-faith efforts include the use of virtual training or remote communication. Alternative protections include engineering or administrative controls, and whether the employer took steps to reschedule the required annual activity as soon as possible.
Here are some of the testing or training operations that could be affected during the crisis and for which Fed-OSHA will consider inspector discretion:
Annual audiograms. Some employers contract with mobile audiometric testing services, and such services could be delayed or cancelled due to social distancing protocols. OSHA says it will not cite employers for failing to conduct annual audiograms, “provided the employer considered alternative options,” implemented interim alternative protective measures and has shown a good-faith effort to reschedule mobile tests as soon as possible.
Process safety management requirements, such as process hazard analysis revalidation, review of operating procedures and refresher training. For instance, employers with ammonia refrigeration processes that are due to be revalidated might not be able to have consultants travel to the employer’s location. OSHA says it will not cite employers for failing to meet the five-year requirement for conducting a PHA revalidation, as long as the employer has considered alternative compliance options, has implemented interim protective measures if possible, and shows a good-faith effort to reschedule the revalidation.
Respirator fit-testing and refresher training. For instance, a manufacturer using spray booths to apply finishing coats, which requires respirators, has scheduled annual refresher training, but is unable to complete it because of consultant travel restrictions. The same caveats apply as above.
Construction crane or derrick operator certification: If a recertification or relicensing is not possible due to travel restrictions or social distancing protocols, OSHA is not citing employers for allowing the operator to work with an expired certification, with the same protocols.
Medical evaluations: Employer may be required to conduct a medical evaluation for pulmonary function, for instance, to determine if employees are cleared to wear respirators. But because ACOEM has recommended suspension of spirometry testing, the agency will not cite employers for their inability to have the tests done. Again, they must implement interim alternative protective measures and make a good-faith effort to reschedule the spirometry when the suspension is lifted.
WHERE IS OSHA?
Katie Tracy Bio
April 20, 2020
As the coronavirus pandemic wears on, reports abound of essential frontline workers laboring without such basic protective gear as masks, gloves, soap, or water; with improper distancing between workstations and coworkers; and in workplaces alongside infected colleagues. So far, nearly 4,000 workers have filed complaints with the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), raising concerns about health and safety conditions inside the workplace. Yet the agency has been largely absent at a time it is most needed.
Shamefully, as COVID-19 illnesses rise in slaughterhouses, grocery stores, hospitals, and other worksites across the nation, the agency has chosen to go against its very mission of protecting America’s workers, ignoring callsto adopt emergency standards and rolling back its enforcement efforts.
Since early March, unions, advocates, and workers have called on OSHA to take immediate action to adopt an emergency temporary standard and subsequent permanent standard to protect frontline workers from infectious diseases like COVID-19. Such an effort was underway during the Obama administration in response to the H1N1 flu pandemic, but Trump’s OSHA removed the rulemaking from the agenda in 2017. Such a rule would guarantee all essential workers a standard level of protection from coronavirus now and other infectious diseases long into the future. But instead of following up on these calls, the agency has declined to start working on a standard or take any other actions at all.
Even without an infectious disease standard, OSHA acknowledges that it has the authority to cite violations of its standards on personal protective equipment, sanitation, bloodborne pathogens, and hazardous substances, as well as to cite employers for violating their general duty to protect workers from known hazards in the workplace. Still, when workers have contacted OSHA to file complaints, the agency has claimed it’s unable to help. In one case, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports, an OSHA official told an attorney representing the family of a deceased Walmart employee that it had no jurisdiction to inspect the work-related fatality, saying, “OSHA does not have any jurisdiction on enforcing anything related to COVID-19 at this time.”
Following up the anecdotal reports of OSHA missing in action, the agency released several guidance documents related to its enforcement policy during the coronavirus outbreak, all of which make it abundantly clear that it won’t be doing much at all. Rather than holding employers accountable for safeguarding workers from COVID-19, OSHA is just letting employers off the hook, a virtual invitation to unscrupulous employers to risk their employees’ health.
The agency’s April 13 “Interim Enforcement Response Plan” states that when OSHA receives a worker complaint related to COVID-19, it will consider it an “informal complaint” instead of a “formal" one. Under normal circumstances, formal complaints are more likely to prompt inspections, and informal complaints generally trigger a letter from OSHA to the employer about the complaint, which requires the employer to respond.
Now that complaints are on the rise and workers are desperate for help from OSHA, however, the agency has decided all complaints outside of the health care industry will be handled informally. OSHA will send a letter notifying the company of the complaint and encouraging employers to ask sick employees to stay home, accommodate telework, emphasize hygiene etiquette, perform cleaning, and stay apprised of government advisories. Take note that the letter simply encourages employers to do these things. No action is required of them, not even so much as a reply to the letter.
Under the new guidance, the only time OSHA may conduct an inspection is if there has been a fatality or imminent danger exposure in a high-risk setting, like health care workers intubating COVID-19 patients. All other inspections, including when an employer reports an in-patient hospitalization, will be conducted using OSHA’s “rapid response investigation” procedures, which is a dressed-up way of saying that the employer inspects itself and reports its findings to the agency.
In a separate guidance document released April 10, “Enforcement Guidance for Recording Cases of Coronavirus Disease 2019,” OSHA excuses employers from recording COVID-19 illnesses under its recordkeeping regulations. Typically, employers would be required to record a confirmed COVID-19 case contracted at work. Instead of enforcing the recordkeeping regulations, the guidance tells employers (except in health care, emergency response, and correctional institutions) that they do not need to worry about recording the COVID-19 case if they are “having difficulty making determinations about whether workers who contracted COVID-19 did so due to exposures at work.” The purpose of letting employers off the hook in this way, according to OSHA, is to “provide certainty to the regulated community.”
OSHA is not only acting against the interests of workers exposed to COVID-19, it leaves the agency without critical data for later evaluation of employers’ response to the pandemic so that it can help recommend improvements to prevent the spread of future infectious diseases. Moreover, if an employer can choose not to record a COVID-19 case because it “had difficulty” deciding whether it was work-related, the employer will also be able to avoid reporting to OSHA if the worker is later hospitalized, thereby avoiding a “rapid response investigation.”
OSHA issued yet another guidance document on April 16, “Discretion in Enforcement when Considering an Employer’s Good Faith Efforts,” and yet again, the agency is letting employers off the hook. The guidance says that inspectors will take into “strong consideration in determining whether to cite a violation” whether an employer acted in “good faith” to comply with OSHA standards related to training, audit, assessment, inspection, or testing requirements.
In a nod to workers, OSHA has also reminded employers that they cannot retaliate against employees who raise concerns about health and safety in the workplace. Yet the OSH Act’s whistleblower protections are notoriously weak and outdated and offer little recourse for workers. And OSHA has not announced any efforts to ramp up the program or fast-track investigations during this time.
Under the current whistleblower provisions, workers have a mere 30 days to file a complaint, investigations take nearly a year, the agency cannot preliminarily reinstate employees, and there is no option for workers to pursue a case independently. According to Business Insurance, in March, OSHA received 386 complaints of retaliation for raising concerns about COVID-19, many of which fall under the scope of the OSH Act’s whistleblower protections. Unfortunately, many of these workers will not see a positive outcome in their cases, and those who do will not see recourse for many months.
In fairness to OSHA, the reasons given for its latest enforcement guidance aren’t beyond all reason – the agency needs to prioritize its very limited resources during a crisis (which are due to political abuse unrelated to the coronavirus), and it needs to prioritize the safety of its own staff and inspectors. Even with that in mind, however, the decisions it has made are disastrous for workers on the front lines and completely contrary to its mission to protect America’s workers.
Imagine for a moment that OSHA was a vigorous agency that took seriously its charge to protect the nation's workers. Such an OSHA would not issue guidance that amounts to a series of escape hatches for employers. Rather, it would aggressively seek to ensure the health and safety of workers by requiring employers – now more than ever – to do what was necessary to protect their workers. That OSHA would make clear that the burden is on employers to ensure a safe workplace, not on workers to avoid hazards on the job. That would include:
Adopting an emergency temporary standard and subsequent permanent standard that protects all frontline workers from exposure to infectious diseases, including coronavirus
Requiring employers in all industries to make a work-relatedness determination and record all confirmed COVID-19 cases in their OSHA logs
Responding to all complaints it receives as quickly as possible and requiring employers to respond to all letters the agency sends regarding informal complaints
Enforcing violations of its existing standards related to protective gear, sanitation, bloodborne pathogens, and hazardous chemicals, and ramping up citations using its general duty clause authority
Bolstering the whistleblower protection program immediately by adopting recommendations that do not require legislative action and by completing investigations within 90 days
Encouraging employers to temporarily close operations if it cannot comply with health and safety standards to prevent the spread of coronavirus
Providing leadership and resources to states that operate their own occupational safety and health programs in lieu of federal OSHA
Educating employers, the federal government, and local governments about the need to institute widespread testing of employees and ensure sufficient protective gear prior to reopening businesses shutdown under shelter-in-place orders
Message Sent To Newsom & Top State Officials To Protect CA Workers From Covid-19
Today Worksafe and 70+ labor & community organizations throughout California are sending an urgent message to Governor Newsom & top state officials: Listen to California Workers!
● Achieve Full Staffing of Cal/OSHA
Cal/OSHA is severely under-resourced making it impossible to respond to hundreds of COVID-19 complaints. Their current response via letter inspection leaves many workers vulnerable. Their inspector vacancy rate as of March 2020 is 20.5 percent. We demand Cal/OSHA achieve full staffing immediately. In the interim, Cal/OSHA should work with city and county health inspectors and deputize labor advocates to respond to the complaints.
Please join us on today as we take to social media to share our demands and uplift stories of workers who have been impacted by the COVID-19 crisis.
Read and share our coalition demand letter: http://bit.ly/3e0oMub
Help us boost the message with this social media toolkit: https://bit.ly/2XaG418
Check out the Press Release below:
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 19th, 2020
California Workers & Advocates to Newsom: Workers Need Immediate Workplace Protections from COVID-19
CALIFORNIA - Today over 75 unions, worker centers, community and faith-based organizations, and occupational health and safety advocacy groups throughout California are uniting behind a demand letter to the California Governor, calling for immediate protections for workers amidst the spread of COVID-19.
A social media campaign today will uplift the stories of vulnerable workers who have been impacted by the current health crisis. Participating organizations will highlight their demands, and call on state leaders including Governor Gavin Newsom, Speaker Anthony Rendon, Senator Toni Atkins, Labor Secretary Julie Su, Cal/OSHA Chief Doug Parker, and others, urging them to further prioritize worker health, safety, and justice during this health pandemic.
“The current crisis has shown the vital importance of workplace health and safety for all, and it has amplified long-standing, unacceptable inequities that put the poorest and most vulnerable workers on the front lines of the most dangerous jobs,” says Alice Berliner of the Southern California Coalition for Occupational Safety & Health.
“Now as businesses and workers are transitioning to return to work, California needs to ensure that worker health and safety is prioritized, state agencies responsible for worker protection and enforcement are well-resourced, and workers’ rights are safe-guarded. We believe this crisis requires an unprecedented level of partnership and focus, and we would like to work with state agencies and the many ethical employers in California to ensure that our recovery is just,” says Roxana Tynan, Executive Director of the LA Alliance for a New Economy.
“California workers urgently need Cal/OSHA to refocus on inspections and enforcement, and Cal/OSHA urgently needs the staffing, tools, and resources to do so. We need a strong agency to ensure that all California workers can work safely and free from the hazards introduced or exacerbated by the pandemic,” says Jora Trang, Worksafe's Chief of Staff & Equity. “The coronavirus pandemic is the occupational health and safety disaster of our lifetime. We must treat it as such, and California should lead the way."
"We see firsthand that in warehouses across the state, employers continue breaking the law, and fail to protect workers from the spread of COVID-19. Amazon, one of the largest employers in the state, continues to put workers at greater risk, and has failed to properly disinfect facilities where there have been confirmed COVID cases. We need California leadership to hold companies like Amazon accountable to protecting workers and send the message that no one is above the law“ says Daisy Lopez, Community Organizer at Warehouse Worker Resource Center.
For more information contact:
Kathy Hoang: kathy [at] forworkingfamilies.org; (323) 524-8435
Sheheryar Kaoosji: skaoosji [at] warehouseworkers.org; (213) 453-8454
Mara Ortenburger, MPH
Director of Communications & Research
Worksafe: Safety, Health, & Justice for Workers
1736 Franklin St., Ste. 500, Oakland, CA 94612
http://www.worksafe.org | Twitter | Facebook
she / her / hers
May 19, 2020
To: Governor Gavin Newsom
CC: Speaker Rendon, President pro Tempore Atkins, Labor Secretary Su, DIR Director Hagen, Cal/OSHA Chief Parker, Labor Commissioner Garcia-Brower, CDPH Director Angell, EDD Director Hilliard, Standards Board Executive Officer Shupe, Special Budget Subcommittee on COVID-19 Response, Special Committee on Pandemic Emergency Response, Senate Labor, Public Employment, and Retirement Committee, Assembly Labor and Employment Committee, Assembly Committee on Public Safety, Joint Legislative Budget Committee
Re: Worker Health and Safety - Urgent Priorities
The undersigned labor and community organizations dedicated to advancing civil, human, and workers’ rights, urge you to take action on the following occupational safety and health (OSH) priorities. These priorities are rooted in the experience of workers facing the threat of COVID-19 in workplaces that fail to promote their health, safety, and wellbeing.
Through your leadership and the commitment of the workers’ rights movement over the last decade, California has taken important steps to protect workers’ dignity, safety, and health. But even before the pandemic struck, California had a long way to go to ensure we live up to our ideals through full and timely enforcement of our laws. Now, the challenges are even more stark. The lack of enforcement resources leaves workers vulnerable in this crisis. Many workers have fallen ill to COVID-19, with the death toll rising. Many more are forced to choose between their health and a paycheck. These challenges are further exacerbated for undocumented workers.
Now as businesses and workers are transitioning to return to work, California needs to ensure that worker health and safety is prioritized, state agencies responsible for worker protection and enforcement are well-resourced, and workers’ rights are safe-guarded. We believe this crisis requires an unprecedented level of partnership and focus, and we would like to work with you and the many ethical employers in California to ensure that our recovery is just.
It is in this spirit of partnership that we offer the following framework to ensure justice and safety for workers as we move through this time of danger and tackle the challenge of a recovery for all. The current crisis and the challenge ahead demand that California take immediate steps:
I. Create a Worker Protection Response Team of State Agencies and Worker Organizations
Create a Worker Protection Response Team to address COVID-19 and any future crisis to revise standards and partner on joint enforcement efforts. The Team should be composed of: worker organizations (both unions and worker centers), worker advocacy organizations, the Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA), the Cal/OSHA Standards Board, the Division of Labor Standards Enforcement (DLSE), the California Department of Public Health, and County Departments of Public Health. The Team needs to create proactive plans and guidelines that would take immediate action in the advent of a crisis. Urgent issues include:
● Partner with Labor
Work with worker organizations including unions, worker centers, and worker health and safety advocacy organizations to ensure workers’ rights are protected.
● Support the Labor Commissioner
The Labor Commissioner must (1) expedite and triage emergency paid sick leave violations, and immigrant-based and OSH-related retaliation violations; (2) institute a public and protected whistleblower process specifically for COVID-19 issues; and (3) increase resources for state enforcement of whistleblower rights and anti-retaliation protections.
● Strengthen Cal/OSHA Enforcement
Cal/OSHA has been hard to reach and physically absent amidst workplace concerns and complaints. Workers desperately need open lines of communication between Cal/OSHA, workers, and advocates, and there must be worker-centered alternatives if physical inspections are not conducted (e.g. phone interviews with workers, video inspections).
● Strengthen Cal/OSHA Complaint Investigation
Cal/OSHA must (1) immediately respond to and inspect COVID-19 related complaints for workers who are directly e xposed to the virus or positively confirmed COVID-19 individuals; (2) definitively state that Cal/OSHA will enforce their COVID-19 Guidances through the Injury and Illness Prevention Program (IIPP) Standard; and (3) apply a presumption of serious or willful violations where the employer has not followed COVID-19 Cal/OSHA and public health guidelines.
● Coordinate with Departments of Public Health
There should be interagency cooperation between county Departments of Public Health and Cal/OSHA to investigate, and possibly immediately shut down, violating facilities. The agencies must coordinate and enforce strict record-keeping and anti-retaliation protection to prevent under-reporting and worker retaliation.
II. Worker Oversight of Workplace Conditions
Worker input and authority is the most reliable way to address occupational health and safety risks. Workers’ ability to come together and communicate about workplace issues and conditions is essential to ensuring that their rights are protected. We demand the following protections:
● Establish Worker Health and Safety Committees
All workplaces with at least five non-supervisory employees at a single location should be required to establish a Health and Safety Standards Committee composed of non-supervisory workers elected by their peers and management representatives. Committee members should be allotted time to meet on at least a monthly basis to discuss ways to improve health and safety, voice and raise concerns about employer compliance with workplace safety requirements, educate the workforce, and address problems.
● Establish Community Partnerships to Address Complaints of OSH Violations and Retaliation Establish procedures to certify and authorize worker organizations, in cooperation with the DLSE and Cal/OSHA, to conduct outreach, education, and training on new and existing safety standards. If there is a health and safety violation or retaliation complaint filed, worker
organization representatives would be able to inspect the workplace and interview and educate workers in response.
● Establish Recovery Task Forces
Develop industry-specific task forces that draw together state agency staff, small businesses, OSH professionals, and worker organizations to develop guidelines to facilitate resumed operations in full compliance with health-and-safety and wage-and-hour laws.
III. Strong Paid Sick Leave and Employee Benefits
Workers and their families are exposed to health hazards, with inadequate access to paid sick leave and other health-related benefits of employment. We reiterate the demands brought forth by the California Work and Family Coalition in their March 26, 2020 letter and additionally demand:
● Permanently Expand Paid Sick Days
COVID-19 has demonstrated the need to put protections in place for future health crises. Minimum permanent paid sick leave needs to be increased to at least 10 paid days (80 hours), accrued at 1 hour of paid sick leave for every 25 hours worked.
● Mandate Health Coverage
Mandate all employers of essential businesses that employ farmworkers and that have provided health coverage to continue to provide health coverage or cover the costs of medical expenses during this time for employees.
● Protect Worker Retention and Right to Return to Work
Workers who have been laid off as part of a mass layoff or business location closure must have the right to return to their job once the location resumes operations. Workers who have been laid off due to lack of work must have the first right to return to work once re-hiring commences. Enact a worker retention policy to protect workers’ jobs in the event of subcontracting, bankruptcy, or a change in ownership that occurs during a public health crisis.
● Avoid Cuts or “Pauses” to Minimum Wage at the State or Local Levels
Planned boosts to the state and local minimum wages will lift up more than one-third of the California workforce. A majority of these workers are women, workers of color, and immigrants employed in sectors including retail, garment, home care and health care, janitorial, child-care, transit, and grocery. These workers provide essential services for all Californians. Given the stagnation of incomes and wages for the bottom 20 percent of California workers and the state’s soaring cost of living, the State and local jurisdictions should not consider pausing or delaying these scheduled minimum wage increases and should ensure that all workers are paid at least an hourly minimum wage.
IV. On the Job Protective Measures
The pandemic has resulted in a tenuous working environment for those who have to continue to work. These workers face possible exposure to the coronavirus due to poor employer response. The following are essential to ensuring that workers’ health and safety are prioritized at this time:
● Include Domestic Workers and Day Laborers in Worker Protections
Support efforts to protect historically excluded workers. SB 1257, the Health and Safety for All Workers Act, would remove the household domestic service exclusion from the state Labor Code which currently results in the exclusion of domestic workers and day laborers working in private homes from Cal/OSHA protection. At present, Cal/OSHA cannot even issue emergency standards to protect these workers.
● Apply and Enforce Strong Workplace Protections
Workers need a more robust set of protections, including both new legal requirements and the stepped up enforcement of existing ones. This includes but is not limited to:
○ Close and Clean: Following a suspected or confirmed case of COVID-19 in the workplace, employers must follow CDC guidelines and close off affected areas, up to and including the whole facility, for 24 hours before beginning enhanced cleaning and disinfecting, and employers must pay employees for any resulting lost work time and provide employees paid time off, sick leave, or alternative work arrangements to workers who must be quarantined because of recent exposure to a confirmed COVID-19 CASE.
○ Ease Workload and Ensure Hygiene Practices: Permit all employees to wash their hands every 30 minutes and additionally as needed. Time taken for handwashing, cleaning and sanitizing work areas, and other preventative measures must not be counted against performance targets and must be fully compensated. Suspend quantified performance quotas, as they impede workers’ ability to follow COVID-19 safety rules and add to physical and mental stress.
○ Employ the Most Effective Hazard Controls: Ensure that all employers utilize the hierarchy of controls to prioritize engineering controls such as shielding and ventilation, and administrative controls to maintain social distancing and reduce contact.
○ Protection from Workplace Violence: Protect workers from violence all across the spectrum of workplace violence.
○ Provide Personal Protective Equipment (PPE): Ensure all employers provide appropriate PPE to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in the workplace.
○ Illness and Injury Prevention Plan (IIPP): Mandate all employers to revise their IIPP to include a COVID-19 prevention program that allows workers to report COVID-19 related health and safety concerns and violations without fear of retaliation.
● Achieve Full Staffing of Cal/OSHA
Cal/OSHA is severely under-resourced making it impossible to respond to hundreds of COVID-19 complaints. Their current response via letter inspection leaves many workers vulnerable. Their inspector vacancy rate as of March 2020 is 20.5 percent. We demand Cal/OSHA achieve full staffing immediately. In the interim, Cal/OSHA should work with city and county health inspectors and deputize labor advocates to respond to the complaints.
● Increase and Strengthen Citations Against Offending Employers
There are hundreds of Cal/OSHA complaints about employers’ failure to implement the proper safety protocols for COVID-19. Offending employers who fail to comply with Cal/OSHA, State, County, and City COVID-19 guidances for Employers needs to be cited. Also, increase and strengthen the Bureau of Field Enforcement’s citation powers along the entirety of supply chains for workers experiencing violations of minimum wage and overtime laws, especially of concern at this time as long shifts and piece rate or quota systems can impede workers ability to follow safety protocols.
● Expand the Aerosol Transmissible Disease (ATD) Standard
In the current pandemic, the entire workforce is potentially exposed to a deadly transmissible disease. The ATD Standard only applies to healthcare workplaces. We demand that Cal/OSHA keep all workers safe by expanding the ATD Standard to all industries, mandating workable and enforceable safeguards, practices, and protections for all.
● Protect the Right to Refuse
Clearly state and enforce a worker’s right to refuse unsafe work that exposes them directly to the coronavirus without the proper safety protocols and protections.
Amalgamated Transit Union, Local 1605
Amalgamated Transit Union, Local 1756
Amalgamated Transit Union, Local 192
Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance Alameda County (APALA) ATU Local 265
Bet Tzedek Legal Services
California Alliance for Retired Americans
California Immigrant Policy Center
California Labor Federation
California Teamsters Public Affairs Council
California Work & Family Coalition
Center for Workers’ Rights
Center on Policy Initiatives
Central Valley Partnership
Centro Laboral de Graton/Graton Day Labor Center
Centro Legal de la Raza
Chinese Progressive Association
CLEAN Carwash Campaign
Clergy and Laity United for Economic Justice
Council on American-Islamic Relations, San Francisco Bay Area CRLA Foundation
Day Worker Center of Mountain View
East Bay Alliance for a Sustainable Economy
Faith in the Valley
Friends Committee on Legislation of California
Garment Worker Center
Gig Workers Rising
Hmong Innovating Politics
Inland Empire Labor Council, AFL-CIO
Instituto de Educación Popular del Sur de California
Instituto Laboral de la Raza
Jobs to Move America
Just Transition Alliance
La Raza Centro Legal
League of Women Voters of Los Angeles
Legal Aid at Work
Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy
Los Angeles Black Worker Center
Los Angeles Worker Center Network
Maintenance Cooperation Trust Fund (MCTF)
Ms. (Lola Smallwood)
National Council for Occupational Safety and Health (National COSH) National Day Laborer Organizing Network
National Employment Law Project
North Bay Jobs with Justice
Orange County Equality Coalition
Organización en California de Líderes Campesinas, Inc.
Partnership for Working Families
Physicians for Social Responsibility - Los Angeles
Pilipino Workers Center
Public Advocates Inc.
Restaurant Opportunities Center Los Angeles
Restaurant Opportunities Center of the Bay (ROC the Bay)
San Diego Volunteer Lawyer Program, Inc.
Santa Clara County Wage Theft Coalition
Street Level Health Project
UAW Local 509
UC Merced Community and Labor Center
UCLA Labor Center
UNITE HERE Local 2850 (Wei-Ling Huber, President)
United for Respect
Warehouse Worker Resource Center
Women’s Employment Rights Clinic
Women’s Voices for the Earth
Workers United-Western States Regional Joint Board SEIU
Working Partnerships USA
View events for the week of 9/24/2020
From the Open-Publishing Calendar
From the Open-Publishing Newswire
|Stop The Murders! Justice For Foster Farms Workers, Their Families & The Community|
|Import into your personal calendar|
|Date||Thursday September 24|
|Time||9:00 AM - 11:00 AM|
|Organizer/Author||Central Valley vs Covid Coalition|
|Dollar General Store 323 N. Main St. Livingston, California|
Added to the calendar on Sunday Sep 20th, 2020 10:45 AM