Labor Day review of significant efforts by states and localities to address (or not) workers’ rights and safety protections

This week, Liz and I have been highlighting parts of our second annual review of U.S. occupational health and safety.   The first two sections of the report summarize key studies in the peer-reviewed literature, and an assessment of activities at the federal level.  In section three of the report we present high points---and a few low points---from state and local governments on workers’ rights and safety protections.  These include:

  • New laws in Portland, Oregon and New York City requiring many employers to offer paid sick leave to their employees.   With 22 percent of the U.S. workforce in occupations that pay less than $11 per hour, missing a day or two of work cuts deeply into an already small paycheck.  Paid sick leave allows workers to recover from an illness or injury without fear of job loss or foregoing basic necessities.  If they are suffering an infectious illness, it also protects their fellow workers and the public from contracting it.
  • Rhode Island Governor Lincoln Chafee signed in July 2013 the Temporary Caregiver Insurance Act. The law will use the state’s payroll tax-funded disability insurance system to pay workers a share of their weekly wages when they are off work caring for a child or sick relative.
  • Several states and cities adopted new minimum wage laws that exceed the federal standard.    There are few things as effective in advancing individual's and a community's health than workers earning a decent wage.  The states and cities with new wage laws are Connecticut, New York, Rhode Island, Albuquerque, NM, San Jose, CA, and Long Beach, CA.
  • Domestic workers and home care workers in Hawaii, Minnesota and Vermont were afforded protections from state wage and hour laws, and the right to unionize, by laws passed in those states.
  • California OSHA (Cal/OSHA) assessed a record $963,200 penalty against Chevron USA for violations associated with the August 2012 fire at the firm's Richmond, CA facility.  Also in California, Cal/OSHA took steps to consider new protections for hotel housekeepers, and workers exposed to ethylbenzene and n-methylpyrrolidine.
  • Indiana OSHA (IOSHA) was criticized by its front-line staff for mandating higher inspection quotas without providing additional staff.  Several complaints to federal OSHA about this matter are pending.
  • The Michigan Governor signed a bill disbanding the key labor-management advisory committees that develop standards for Michigan OSHA.

We also use the annual report to acknowledge some of the well-researched, State-specific reports prepared by non-profit organizations.   We provide synopsis of reports issued by groups including the New Mexico Center for Law and Poverty, Public Citizen, and Puget Sound Sage.

Finally, the report gives credit to several reporters who covered worker health and safety issues in Houston, Massachusetts and North Carolina.

Blog post on section 1 of the report.

Blog post on section 2 of the report.



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