This August, my husband passed away after five weeks in the hospital. Being with him at that time was both an incredibly difficult and a beautiful experience. It’s been difficult, after 20 years, to lose a loved one. Difficult to see him hooked up to IVs, with a breathing tube, unable to walk around.
It was also beautiful—to be by his side, to watch him rally, to see him so determined to go home. And it was beautiful to help make that possible, beautiful to be with him at the end, and beautiful to say good-bye.
And I am forever grateful. I’m grateful for health care that covered hospital and hospice care. Grateful for family medical leave that made it possible for me to be with him. For bereavement leave that allowed me to take some time before returning to work. I am grateful for the labor movement and for the activists who struggled for the rights that I benefited from during this difficult time, and for the support of friends, family, colleagues and coworkers.
This profound experience leads me to reflect on those who must also confront loss—without the benefits I have the privilege of having. I think about all the people whose loved ones die on the job, with no chance for family and friends to say good-bye. I think about those whose families are torn apart when a loved one is deported. And I think about those who lack health insurance and sick leave. Just as we never forget the loss of our own loved ones, we must never forget the loss of other families and friends who lose loved ones to death on the job, deaths that could have been prevented. We draw our inspiration from the growing network of solidarity—from those who stand together to confront dangerous jobs that take workers’ lives, to confront deportations of coworkers who are also fathers, mothers, siblings.
As 2017 draws to a close, I reflect on how deeply connected the personal and the political are. How policies enacted in Sacramento and Washington DC are not separate from our personal lives, and from our day-to day life experiences. Attacks against unions, workers’ ability to organize, immigrants, our health and safety, our access to health care—they affect so many, so deeply.
Looking ahead to 2018, LOSH will celebrate 40 years of outreach, education, community research, and worker advocacy. We invite you to join us as we celebrate the gains we have made—and as we renew our efforts to prevent work injuries and illness, and to promote safe and healthy jobs for every worker.
If you’re in the Los Angeles area, please hold October 11, 2018 for a celebration of LOSH’s legacy. I look forward to celebrating with you.
LOSH And Partners Prepare To Provide Health and Safety Training In Wake of Devastating California Wildfires
Californians know all too well that we have experienced an unusually active wildfire season this year.
As this newsletter was being put together, the Thomas Fire in Ventura and Santa Barbara Counties was in its second week and became the fourth largest in State history.
In October, Santa Rosa and other communities in Sonoma County were also devastated by fires, with the Tubbs Fire taking top place as the most destructive in California history, with more than 5,300 structures burned.
Our hearts go out to the families who have lost their homes and property in these fires and who face long periods of recovery ahead. Our thoughts also turn to the workers who mobilize during these incidents—the firefighters and emergency responders who battle the flames and help evacuate threatened neighborhoods, the healthcare workers who treat injured residents and those impacted by smoke and ash.
Operating engineers and hazmat workers are often the first to return to burn areas to clear out large debris and remove potentially hazardous materials. These workers, and the construction crews and day laborers that will slowly cleanup and rebuild these communities all face health risks if they are not protected through training and educational resources.
LOSH is committed to ensuring that any workers involved in wildfire response and recovery activities in California have access to information and resources to help them perform their work safely.
We are collaborating with our partner in the Bay Area, the Labor Occupational Health Program (LOHP), state government representatives, and other partners in Northern California to support training in Spanish and English for cleanup workers in the Santa Rosa area. And we have started conversations to explore similar training and support activities for workers in Southern California in the coming months.
Stay tuned to our website, social media, and newsletter for further updates about our activities related to the California wildfires. In the meantime, check out our comprehensive (and growing) list of resources related to wildfire health and safety issues for workers.
LOSH Trains More Than 450 Healthcare Workers on Infectious Disease Hazards
At high risk for infectious disease exposure, workers receive valuable training from LOSH
Healthcare workers are at especially high risk for contracting infectious diseases on the job, a result of contact with sick patients or contaminated medical waste. There has been growing concern in recent years to diseases caused by viruses and bacteria that travel through the air or on contaminated surfaces—airborne and droplet diseases ranging from the common cold and seasonal flu to more serious agents such as measles, tuberculosis, and meningitis.
California is the only state in the country with an occupational health standard designed to protect workers from these “aerosol transmissible disease” (ATD) risks. Cal/OSHA’s ATD standard came about in 2009, the result of advocacy efforts by local labor unions and healthcare worker advocates. The resulting standard establishes a legally enforceable framework for requiring employers in healthcare and other settings to plan, control, and respond to potential exposures.
But eight years after the creation of the standard, a need still exists for user-friendly training and materials for workers and employers to follow.
Over the past year, LOSH has collaborated with the California Department of Public Health, SEIU Nurse Alliance of California, Kaiser Permanente Office of Labor Management Partnership, and the Labor Occupational Health Program at UC Berkeley to develop new ATD curricula and provide training for nurses, environmental service workers, union stewards, and other healthcare worker-leaders across the state. We have trained 461 healthcare workers to date, with more courses planned in the coming months. The project is generously supported by the National Institute for Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) Worker Training Program.
Could your workplace use ATD training? We would be happy to work with you to set one up. Contact Kevin Riley at LOSH for more information.
Our Work, Our Power!
LOSH and Partners Support Young Workers Across the Region
Young workers are an important part of local economies and often have to face precarious working conditions. According to a recent report by the UCLA Labor Center, the challenges they face “[take] various forms, such as wage theft, harassment, the withholding of benefits, and career immobility.” Additionally, “every year nearly 30 teens under 18 die from work injuries in the United States. Another 27,000 get hurt badly enough that they go to a hospital emergency room.”
For the past few years, LOSH has worked with young workers via the annual Young Worker Leadership Academy (YWLA), which introduces participants to service strategies (policy, education, media), and provides a forum for youth to plan service learning projects for their schools and communities to promote positive, safe employment for youth.
Since May 2016, LOSH has mentored a group of high school students from the Math, Science, and Technology Magnet Academy (MSTMA) at Roosevelt High School in Boyle Heights. The MSTMA group developed a research project on the struggles young workers face in East and South Los Angeles and have presented their findings at various conferences including the 6th annual youth-led Eastside Stories Conference in Boyle Heights, where they co-facilitated a young worker rights workshop with LOSH staff.
Additionally, on September 23rd, 2017, LOSH helped organize the young worker labor rights summit, “Our Work, Our Power!” in partnership with the Southern California Coalition on Occupational Safety and Health (SoCalCOSH), the UCLA Labor Center, and Children over Politics. Over 25 youth from Los Angeles and the Inland Empire came to learn about the foundations of organizing, hear from labor and community organizations about young workers’ rights, and share strategies on how to build youth power across the greater LA metropolitan area.
LOSH will be partnering with the Labor Occupational Health Program (LOHP) for YWLA 2018 in early February. Six teams will be participating, including four teams from Southern California.
Internship Program Trains Tomorrow’s Health and Safety Leaders
This summer, LOSH hosted four student interns as part of the national Occupational Health Internship Program (OHIP). One team of students worked with the United Food and Commercial Workers’ Union Local 770 to investigate injuries and job hazards among workers at the El Super grocery store chain in Southern California. A second team worked with the National Domestic Worker Alliance and the California Domestic Worker Coalition to interview residential housekeepers, nannies, and in-home caregivers about their injury experiences and eligibility for workers’ compensation.
OHIP is a national program that pairs student interns with unions or worker organizations to investigate job-related safety and health conditions through direct interactions with workers and advocates. Since 2004, almost 300 students have participated in the program, and many alumni are now active in various occupational health and safety professions.
The Summer 2018 OHIP project is coming up soon! We’re always looking for leads for potential work placement sites for interns. If you know of an organization that might be a good match, email Sarah Jacobs, National OHIP Coordinator.
LOSH Joins More Than 1,000 Community Health Promoters at Annual Conference
Last October, UCLA-LOSH represented at the 15th Annual Visión Y Compromiso Conference for Promoters, Community Health Workers themed “Resiliency: Our Strength in Times of Change” in Ontario, CA. More than 1,000 health promoters from around the United States gathered to network and engage in the professional development workshops at the event.
LOSH staff and the Promotoras led a two-hour workshop titled “Human Beings and Their Environment: Ergonomics and the Health Promoter.” The workshop highlighted the impact of poorly organized work spaces and processes and examined the strategies that promotoras can incorporate to avert health issues due to such work spaces.
For the seventh consecutive year, UCLA-LOSH staffed a resource table that has evolved to become a go-to station for one-on-one support aimed at identifying job hazards and sharing legal and technical resources. More than 400 Promotoras were eager to play our tabletop game called Worker Safety and Health Roulette, a game where they answer questions and win health educational prizes. Models of body joints and fact sheets were also used to share information about the prevention of workplace injury and illness caused by workplace violence and ergonomic hazards. These two topics were developed for Promotoras with the help of LOSH’s Promotoras Committee for Workplace Safety and Health.
The UCLA-LOSH Promotoras Committee was created to support members’ growth as community educators and leaders who can effectively advocate for themselves and others, and advance a balanced relationship between work and health. Promotoras are self-identified community caretakers who join educational and healthcare institutions as mediators, translators, interviewers and facilitators. They derive their expertise from participating in diverse educational programs, public health campaigns and academic research, and from direct membership in the communities where they live and work.
LOSH Provides Safety Training for Community Members Involved in Lead Cleanup
For more than 30 years, the Exide lead battery recycling facility operated in Vernon, California, released lead and other toxics into the surrounding communities. The contamination affected more than 100,000 people. Today, a State-led effort to clean up those properties is providing job opportunities for residents of the impacted communities.
Over the past year, LOSH has partnered with the California Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) and the Los Angeles Trade Technical College (LATTC) to train residents in Southeast Los Angeles for jobs testing local properties for lead and cleaning up contaminated soil—all while protecting their own health and that of other residents.
The first phase of the project began in fall 2016, when 30 residents were trained to perform lead soil sampling at an estimated 10,000 homes, schools, parks, and other properties in the communities of Vernon, Huntington Park, Maywood, Bell, Commerce, Boyle Heights and East Los Angeles. The second phase of the project, which is currently getting off the ground, aims to remediate an estimated 2,500 of the most impacted properties.
LOSH has played an important role to ensure that the residents being trained have the knowledge and skills to perform their jobs safely. Students received week-long training in hazardous waste operations, as well as awareness-level courses on lead, asbestos, mold, confined space and heat illness prevention. (Students also receive certified lead training through NATEC, Inc.)
LOSH’s role under this workforce development effort is supported in part through a grant from the NIEHS Environmental Careers Worker Training Program.
The UCLA Labor Occupational Safety and Health Program (UCLA-LOSH) is a sub-unit of UCLA’s Institute for Research on Labor and Employment (IRLE). Partner units include the UCLA Labor Center and the Human Resources Round Table at UCLA. UCLA-LOSH is also affiliated with the Center for Occupational and Environmental Health.