Earlier this week, we published our annual report, “The Year In U.S. Occupational Health & Safety: Fall 2015 – Summer 2016,” chronicling the victories, setbacks and struggles taking place in the American workplace. But it was just about impossible to piece together a report like this without thinking about the strange — and often scary — election before us and its implications for workers.
The fifth edition of The Year in U.S. Occupational Health and Safety recaps the key events over the last 12 months in government agencies, notable publications by academic researchers and public interest organizations, and exceptional reporting by investigative journalists.
The most recent annual Federal OSHA evaluation report of Cal/OSHA highlights progress made in some areas, but continuing failure to meet several minimum federal benchmarks as well as requirements of California law. The underlying causes of these ongoing problems are chronic understaffing of field compliance officers and a lack of political will in the agency’s leadership.
Restaurant workers in California experience severe injuries and disability; OSHA pushes back against a judge’s ruling in poultry plant inspection case; Gov. Chris Christie vetoes a $15 minimum wage bill; and the women making Nike products in Vietnam often earn poverty wages and face grueling production expectations.
A closer look at the latest available data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that injury and illness stats for California show the state has worse, not better, rates of worker injuries and illnesses than national levels or the performance of other major industrial states. The “but we have better stats” response from state officials cannot be used to justify the failure of the Department of Industrial Relations and Cal/OSHA to fill 38 vacant field compliance officer positions that have been fully funded since July 2015.
Farmworkers in south Texas continue to struggle 50 years after historic worker strike; Illinois governor signs Domestic Workers Bill of Rights; Samsung Electronics accused of withholding deadly chemical exposure information from workers; and OSHA fines a Tyson chicken plant after a worker loses a finger.