Low-wage work

Category archives for Low-wage work

“No dust, no silica”: OSHA Silica Hearings Week #2

A high-road employer and lower-wage workers spoke in the second week of public hearings on OSHA’s proposed rule to protect workers who are exposed to respirable crystalline silica.

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.

“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.”

Last weekend, construction worker Jose Perez stood up and spoke about life as a construction worker in one of then nation’s most prosperous cities. In front of him were hundreds of supporters who had gathered in downtown Austin, Texas, to call on a local developer to treat its workers better. Looming behind him was the new Gables Park Tower, an unfinished luxury apartment complex where construction workers have reported dangerous working conditions and frequent wage violations.

The day I spoke with Idaho minimum wage activist Anne Nesse, it was quite cold in her hometown of Coeur d’Alene — 29 degrees, to be exact. The harsh winters came up more than once during our conversation about low wages in the northwestern state.

“There’s a lot we don’t know about preterm birth and we know even less about the disparities in those births.” Those are words from Ondine von Ehrenstein, who recently examined the links between occupational exposures and preterm birth rates among Hispanic women.

“Too often nothing happens,” said John Podesta, Center for American Progress chair and founder, introducing the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pension Majority Committee report released on December 11th that details federal contractors’ repeat and serious occupational safety and wage violations. “Too often the government renews agreements with companies that have a long track record…

There are few factors that shape a person’s health as strongly and predictably as income. And while enforcing wage and labor laws may at first seem outside the purview of public health agencies, Rajiv Bhatia adamantly disagrees. In fact, he says that public health may wield the most persuasive stick in town.

Walmart says its wages are at the high end, but it’s hard to get by on even $12 per hour. After deducting housing, food, and transportation costs from a $12-per-hour worker’s paycheck, there’s little if anything left for other basic expenses, let alone saving for the future.