Online Program

Engaging workers in the government regulatory arena: A collaborative model for worker health

Monday, November 4, 2013 : 11:30 a.m. - 11:50 a.m.

Linda Delp, PhD, MPH, Labor Occupational Safety & Health Program, University of California, Los Angeles, Los Angeles, CA
Workers employed in non-union, low wage jobs confront a range of hazards with limited access to institutional mechanisms to assert their right to a safe workplace. Fear of employer and government reprisal underlie a reticence to report hazards. Worker centers have developed innovative campaigns to advocate for workers in a variety of industries. This paper highlights campaigns that have integrated enforcement of occupational health and safety standards in Southern California, distant from the center of government decision-making but home to vibrant worker and immigrants' rights activists. The appointment of new government agency leaders provided a political window of opportunity to address inequities.

We describe the evolution of a collaborative model to facilitate worker engagement in the regulatory enforcement arena; this model is grounded in experience with the OSHA complaint process in the car wash, hotel, warehouse and recycling industries. Key partners include a core COSH-university-labor collaborative with an extended network of activists from regional campaigns. The model adapts conceptual frameworks from the popular education, participatory action research and civic engagement arenas as applied through a collaborative approach to enhance government responsiveness to workers in non-union settings.

Successes include precedent-setting joint employer liability citations, the application of ergonomic and heat standards in new settings, and progress in accepting worker advocates as representatives of non-union workers in the regulatory process. We explore the challenges of sustaining worker engagement, of inadequate agency staffing and of worker retaliation in the context of immigration debates and fragmentation of state agency responsibilities.

Learning Areas:

Occupational health and safety

Learning Objectives:
Describe the role of key community, labor and university partners in a collaborative approach to improving workers’ health Analyze core elements of a model to engage workers in the government regulatory process Identify successes and challenges of a government regulatory approach to improve the health and safety conditions of low wage jobs

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I am the Director of the UCLA Labor Occupational Safety and Health Program and a Board member of the SoCal Coalition for Occupational Safety & Health, both core partners in the Southern California network of OHS activists. I provide education and technical assistance services to a variety of worker health and safety campaigns.
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.