233693 Workplace Health and Safety Organizing in the Informal Economy: Government/Grassroots Collaborations Targeting Hard-To-Reach Workers

Monday, November 8, 2010 : 2:50 PM - 3:10 PM

Tony Robinson, PhD , Department of Political Science, University of Colorado Denver, Denver, CO
Low wage day labor (mostly immigrant men) and domestic work (mostly immigrant women) are rapidly growing sectors of the informal economy. Though workers in these physically challenging occupations face substantial workplace health and safety challenges, they are hard-to-reach in terms of collective organizing campaigns and effective health and safety education and advocacy. Barriers preventing day labors and domestic workers from receiving adequate health and safety protections include: the informal nature of their work, their work precariousness (in that these workers usually work without a contract, are easy to fire, and have a limited understanding of their workplace rights), the race, ethnicity and gender of the workers, and the workers' inadequate understanding of worker rights and employer responsibilities. Workforce organizing campaigns can address each of these obstacles, and government policy can play an important role in fostering effective organizing and outreach among these hard-to-reach populations. Recently, the Occupational Health and Safety Administration has targeted its Susan Harwood Health and Safety Training Grants at catalyzing workplace organizing and health and safety education among hard to reach populations like immigrant day laborers. This paper will report on the kind of immigrant worker organizing and education activities funded by this grant program in recent years, with a special focus on the activities of a Denver worker center known as El Centro Humanitario. Their health and safety campaigns among hard-to-reach workers includes peer-to-peer training networks, street-corner outreach and organizing, and digital storytelling allowing workers to report on their workplace safety issues in short films.

Learning Areas:
Advocacy for health and health education
Diversity and culture
Occupational health and safety
Planning of health education strategies, interventions, and programs
Public health or related education

Learning Objectives:
1. To identify the unique workplace health and safety challenges facing day laborers and domestic workers 2. To describe the ways in which government policy can be crafted to reach those hard-to-reach workers with effective health and safety training activities 3. To formulate and design effective organizing, outreach and education campaigns targeting hard-to-reach day laborers and domestic workers

Keywords: Labor, Community Building

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I am qualified to present because I am a professor specializing in workplace challenges facing lower income workers, and on community development and community organizing. I am also a founding board member of a community non-profit with a mission to organize and advocate for hard-to-reach low-income immigrant workers.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.