How Safe is the "Green" Economy?

Posted on Apr 28, 2016
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Only strong worker organizing can guarantee that jobs in the so-called green economy will be healthy and safe for workers.

Former Worksafe Executive Director Gail Bateson contributed to this op-ed, which originally appeared on Alternet on March 30, 2016.

Americans have made a decision: We’re throwing away the throwaway economy. Curbside recycling is available in more than 9,000 municipalities, and one-third of America’s waste stream is now diverted from landfills.

Glass Recycling Worker Glass recycling worker.
Seattle Municipal Archives

It’s great that we’re conserving raw materials, saving money and reducing the greenhouse gas emissions. Now it’s time to make another decision: We need to raise pay and improve working conditions for recycling workers. These are green jobs and good for the environment. But they are also dangerous, with high rates of serious injury and even the risk of death.

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Workers' Memorial Day 2016

Posted on Apr 19, 2016
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Reclaim Labor! Reclaim Lives!
Oakland-based Collaborative, Worksafe, Street Level, and Centro Legal de la Raza to Host Workers Memorial Day Event, April 28th, 2016

Oakland, CA – An Oakland collaborative of community and advocacy organizations, Worksafe, Street Level Health Project, and Centro Legal de la Raza will host a Workers Memorial Day event on April 28th, 2016 from 4:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. in Oakland. Workers, advocates, and allies will meet at the Lake Merritt Amphitheatre located between 12th Street and 1st Ave. on Lake Merritt Blvd. in Downtown Oakland. Participants will then march in solidarity to City Hall located at 1 Frank H. Ogawa Plaza. At 5:30 p.m. at 1 Frank H. Ogawa Plaza, there will be a short memorial program featuring workers, labor, government agencies, and advocates. A moment of silence will be observed to mourn workers who passed in the workplace in the prior year.

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New Report Exposes Dangers of Recycling Work

Posted on Jun 23, 2015
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2015-06-23-recycling-report_250x25017 Recent Fatalities; Workers Injured at Twice the Average Rate
East Bay Workers Take Action to Make Jobs Safer

OAKLAND, CA - A new report, released Tuesday, June 23 by environmental, occupational safety, and community benefits experts, in collaboration with researchers at the University of Illinois School of Public Health, finds that recycling work is unnecessarily hazardous to workers’ health and safety.

Seventeen American recycling workers died on the job from 2011 to 2013, including at least three in California. Recycling workers are more than twice as likely to be injured at work as the average worker.

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2015 "Dying at Work" Report Released

Posted on May 1, 2015
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Pages from 2015_Dying_at_Work_in_California

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Exposed at Work AND at Home

Posted on Mar 31, 2015
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Health, Firefighter, Consumer and Science Groups Seek Ban on Household Products With Toxic Chemical Flame Retardants

97% of U.S. residents at risk from toxic organohalogen flame retardants in their bodies

Washington, D.C. — Today, a broad coalition of health, firefighter, consumer and science groups filed a petition asking the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) to ban four categories of consumer products—children’s products, furniture, mattresses and the casings around electronics—if they contain any flame retardant in the chemical class known as organohalogens. Petitioners include the American Academy of Pediatrics, the National Hispanic Medical Association, the International Association of Fire Fighters, the Learning Disabilities Association of America, Consumers Union, Consumer Federation of America, the League of United Latin American Citizens, Worksafe, Dr. Philip J. Landrigan and the Green Science Policy Institute.

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Injuries and deaths on minds of striking Steelworkers

Posted on Feb 9, 2015
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The Pump Handle

This post originally appeared on The Pump Handle, on February 5, 2015
By Celeste Monforton, DrPH, MPH of Milken Institute School of Public Health, George Washington University

Workplace safety is one of the core issues of concern for the thousands of refinery workers who went on strike February 1 at plants in Texas, California, Washington, and Kentucky. The workers are members of the United Steelworkers (USW), and say their employers— LyondellBasell, Marathon Oil, and Royal Dutch Shell—put lives at risk with excessive work hours, delayed maintenance, and production pressure. Their previous contract was negotiated and approved in 2012.

“Union members believe it is time to take a stand,” USW spokesperson Lynn Hancock told the Houston Chronicle. “If we don’t, our people will continue to get injured and killed on the job.” The last time there was a walk-out of this magnitude by the USW was 1980.

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California workplace fatality rates up, with sharp rise among Latino workers

Posted on Sep 11, 2014
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People killed on the job in CaliforniaToday, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) released preliminary data on the number of work-related fatalities for 2013; final figures are due out next spring. While the overall trend nationwide indicates both a lower number of deaths (4,405) and rate of fatal incidents (3.2 per 100/000 workers) compared to 2012 figures, California moved in the opposite direction: more workers killed and a startling increase in deaths among Latino workers.

The preliminary number of deaths for California in 2012 was 339, which was later revised up to 375; the preliminary figure for 2013 is already at 385 deaths. We can reasonably expect the final count to surpass 400.

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The Stories Behind the Statistics

Posted on Apr 27, 2014
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Dying at Work ReportOn April 15, 2013, 26-year-old temporary worker David Eleidjian never came home from his job at a Bay Point industrial manufacturing facility. The Iraq war veteran and recent father was caught and pulled into an unguarded spinning shaft, and died later at the hospital.

Four days later, in Santa Rosa, 21-year-old Hugo Tapia also left for his temp work position, at the glass company his father had worked at for decades. He too never returned. Only two weeks into the job, he was crushed by heavy, unsecured glass that fell off an A-frame rack.

In October, amid the tensions of a BART strike brought on in part by concerns over worker safety, BART employee Chris Sheppard and consultant Laurence Daniels were inspecting a dip in the tracks near the Walnut Creek station. They were struck and killed by a train on a maintenance run, driven by a student trainee likely being instructed in the event of a prolonged strike.

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Worksafe Responds to Cal/OSHA Chief’s Resignation

Posted on Sep 18, 2013
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On September 4, 2013, Ellen Widess resigned from her position as Chief of the Division of Occupational Safety and Health (DOSH), also known as Cal/OSHA. Worksafe and many of our allies among unions, worker centers, and OSH professionals were caught off guard by the news; even more startling was the characterization of the OSH community’s reaction by the Cal-OSHA Reporter, which claimed that “both employer and labor representatives were practically jubilant at the news.” Worksafe was the only organization that was quoted on the record; we praised her work in carrying out the mission of the agency: to protect the health and safety of California workers.

A little more than a week later, the Cal-OSHA Reporter printed a handful of letters from agency staff, worker advocate organizations, and OSH professionals who supported her record and chastised the publication for its biased reporting. The Cal-OSHA Reporter mentioned in passing but did not print any of the letters from organized labor. Her detractors remain unidentified.

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Workers Memorial Day 2013

Posted on Apr 25, 2013
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Workers Memorial Day Event in Oakland Honors Those Who Died at Work in 2012: Event and annual report mark the 26th anniversary of Workers Memorial Day in the United States

Oakland, CA – Eva Macias thrived for 13 years working at the San Leandro Waste Management recycling and transfer plant. On June 18, 2012, she was hit by a front-end loader and killed. Overly informal driving rules, insufficient training, and lack of a traffic control system were to blame, according to Cal/OSHA.

46-year-old Anita Paratley was one of more than 12 female San Francisco firefighters in the Richmond district to be diagnosed with breast cancer. She began to wonder if her work was related. “When you don’t see the heat and the smoke dies down, you think you’re safe,” she says. But, the process of cleaning up and checking for hot spots after the fire takes several hours, and all the while, workers are exposed to hazardous gases and soot as materials smolder.

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