Translating Research into Policy and Intervention Strategies

LOSH research efforts are designed to promote prevention strategies and inform policies to improve workplace conditions. Our research approach is based on principles of worker and community participation to identify and document hazards and evaluate the effectiveness of interventions. Targeted research initiatives have examined approaches to improve conditions facing immigrant workers, those in the low-wage labor market and/or informal work sectors, workers in high-hazard jobs, female workers, and youth in the United States and beyond.

LOSH research has contributed to campaigns to improve health and safety conditions for workers in Southern California and informed policy at the state and local levels.

We disseminate our research results to policymakers and affected workers through reports, academic publications, factsheets, and education. Reports are available online in the following fields:

Injury Experiences of Workers in the Low-Wage Labor Market

Report and Factsheets

This LOSH report is based on data from the 2008 Unregulated Work Survey of workers in low-wage industries in New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago. A subset of about 600 respondents in that survey indicated they had been injured on the job in the prior three years. This project analyzed information provided by these respondents for insights regarding injured workers’ interactions with employers, access to medical care, and likelihood of filing workers’ comp claims.

Analyses revealed significantly higher rates of injury among men, undocumented residents, those whose primary language was Spanish, and those working in the construction industry. Over half of respondents who experienced a work-related injury indicated their employer reacted negatively to the injury – common employer reactions included pressuring workers to work despite injury, firing them shortly after injury, and/or threatening them with deportation or firing. Only 11% of respondents said their employers provided them with a workers’ compensation claim form and/or told them to file. Undocumented residents were significantly more likely to experience negative reactions from employers following injury, less likely to seek medical attention, and less likely to file for workers’ compensation.

Funding for this project was provided by the California Commission on Health and Safety and Workers’ Compensation.

Heat Illness Prevention Education for Outdoor Workers in Southern California

Immigrant Workers in California

Voices from the Margins: Immigrant Workers’ Perceptions of Health and Safety in the Workplace

Reports

LOSH conducted an ethnographic in-depth study of 75 immigrant workers in six industries in Southern California between January and October 2001. The industries chosen were day labor, domestic work, garment work, homecare, hotel and restaurant work. Most of those interviewed — 90 percent — worried that they would get injured on the job. The majority said they had experienced work-related injuries or illnesses, but only two thirds had reported these to their employers. Those who did not report gave a variety of reasons for not doing so, not the least of which was concern that their employer would retaliate against them.

Immigrant Workers in the Katrina Recovery Effort

Katrina: Health and Safety of Latino Immigrant Workers

Reports

After the hurricanes hit the Gulf Coast, Latino immigrant workers came from all over the country to clean and rebuild the devastated areas. Some were recruited by contractors; others, having heard jobs were plentiful, came of their own accord. Media coverage of the clean-up and reconstruction of New Orleans and the Mississippi Gulf Coast featured images of workers in white protective suits wearing goggles, hard hats, and gloves, with captions describing how dangerous the work was.

What you rarely saw were images of immigrant workers gutting buildings, cleaning up debris and tearing out moldy sheetrock from flooded houses, mostly without protective gear. You didn’t see the workers when they went “home” after work, only to sleep in the same clothes they worked in because “home” was in an abandoned car or a shelter with nowhere to wash. If you were to spend some time in the hurricane-affected areas, you would see workers sleeping out in the street or in soaking-wet tents, pitched in a muddy field at City Park—a privilege costing $300 a month, plus five dollars per shower every time they wanted to bathe.

In response to these reports, LOSH and the National Day Laborer Organizing Network (NDLON) undertook a joint project to investigate occupational health and safety issues particular to Latino migrant day laborers in the region. On behalf of the organizations, day laborer organizer/field researcher Tomás Aguilar traveled to the Gulf Coast to find out about the actual conditions facing immigrant workers, what was being done about them, and what possibilities existed for collaborating with other groups to improve conditions.

Workforce Needs in California’s Homecare System

Homecare, otherwise known as In-Home Supportive Services (IHSS), enables more than 300,000 low-income elderly and younger disabled recipients to stay in their homes rather than live in more expensive institutional settings. This innovative, cost-effective, consumer-directed program has become a national model that other states are examining, and is a vital component of California’s continuum of services for those who need long term care.

LOSH collaborates with a diverse cross-section of individuals – from academia, public policy, labor, and consumer advocacy groups – to conduct and disseminate research on the benefits of state support for homecare services as well as the protections needed for homecare workers. This research project builds on the work of the California Homecare Research Working Group, funded by the UC Institute for Labor and Employment in 2001.

Reports

Briefing Paper: Workforce Needs in California’s Homecare System
This briefing paper summarizes the substantial advantages of California’s In-Home Supportive Services (IHSS) program, and argues for the continuation of the program in the face of potential budget cuts. The authors document the higher costs to the state of nursing home care compared to home care, and outline the positive effects of workers’ higher wages and benefits on worker recruitment and labor supply, worker turnover, the quality of care, and lowered public costs.

Prepublication Report: Homecare Worker Organizing in California: An Analysis of a Successful Strategy
This article examines recent struggles to unionize the state’s homecare workers and collectively bargain for better wages and working conditions. The authors survey campaigns in San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Alameda counties, noting the obstacles to success and highlighting future issues of concern. The authors find a strategy of worker organization, policy intervention, and coalition building as the key to success in all cases.

More information on homecare research is available on the UC Berkeley Labor Center website.