Labor Rights

Category archives for Labor Rights

A investigative Houston Chronicle piece exposes the dangers of the tank cleaning industry; North Carolina lawmakers back fracking secrecy with jail time; and Wal-Mart contractor settles in wage theft case.

Two years ago, domestic workers in Houston, Texas, took part in the first national survey documenting the conditions they face on the job. The experience — a process of shedding light on the often isolating and invisible world of domestic work — was so moving that Houston workers decided they didn’t want to stop there. Instead, they decided it was time to put their personal stories to paper.

California’s workforce has grown by about 22 percent in the last 20 years but the number of safety inspectors for the 17 million people employed in the state’s 1.34 million workplaces has decreased by about 11 percent. This leaves California’s workforce – the largest of any US state – with the lowest number of inspectors per workers of any state with its own occupational safety and health plan for private-sector workers. California has so few workplace safety inspectors that it would take 173 years to inspect each workplace in the state just once.

In New York, construction is the deadliest industry, with immigrant workers experiencing half of all occupational-related fatalities. In Massachusetts in 2013, it’s estimated that upward of 500 workers died from occupational disease, at least 1,800 were diagnosed with cancers associated with workplace exposures and 50,000 workers experienced serious injury. In Wyoming, workplace deaths climbed to a five-year high in 2012.

Conditions on Florida tomato farms improve thanks to the Fair Food Program; federal officials are developing a protective inhalation screening level for the West Virginia chemical spill region; and a Government Accountability Project expert testifies on whistleblower protections in observance of Workers Memorial Day.

Thou shall not steal: Houston’s wage theft ordinance in action

Workers in Houston test the City’s new anti-wage theft ordinance, making a complaint against companies contracted by the City of Houston.

Thanks to a unanimous vote of California’s Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board last Thursday, workers get to hold on to a robust chemical right-to-know rule that puts their health and safety first. The vote also means that California workers will reap the benefits of more meaningful right-to-know rules than those at the federal level.

When President Obama signed the Food Safety Modernization Act into law in 2011, it was described as the most sweeping reform of the nation’s food safety laws in nearly a century. Public health advocates hailed the law for shifting regulatory authority from reaction to prevention. What received less attention was a first-of-its-kind provision that protects workers who expose food safety lawbreakers.

“For us it’s personal,” said Jeannie Economos, Farmworker Association of Florida Pesticide Safety and Environmental Health Project Coordinator. “It’s a daily issue for us. Every day with a weaker protection standard is another day a worker is exposed to pesticides,” she said. On February 20th the EPA proposed revisions to its Worker Protection Standard for agricultural pesticides. Farm worker advocates are welcoming the proposal – the first update since 1992 – but see both improvements and what some are calling “steps backward.”

Poultry workers appeal to White House, USDA must abandon new poultry slaughter rule

The Obama Administration still has time to abandon its ill-conceived new regulation on poultry inspection. We’ll see if the Administration decides to treat poultry workers better than the firms that employ them.