Online Program

How Corporate Democrats Undermined Workers' Health and Safety in California

Tuesday, November 3, 2015 : 8:50 a.m. - 9:10 a.m.

Garrett D. Brown, MPH, CIH, Maquiladora Health & Safety Support Network, Berkeley, CA
Background and Objectives:  In January 2011, Democrat Jerry Brown succeeded Republican Arnold Schwarzenegger as Governor of California.  Within three years, the state’s workplace health and safety agency – Cal/OSHA – had fewer staff and resources under Brown than under Schwarzenegger.  The presentation’s objective is to identify the underlying ideological and political goals that generated this decline and prevented an effective response by union officials and labor lobbyists to defend workplace protections.

 Methods: The presentation will outline the statistical decline in resources and describe the pressures on Cal/OSHA managers to “go easy” on politically-connected employers and corporations in several case studies.  Efforts by labor and occupational health and safety professional organizations to counter-act these pressures and trends will be described.

 Results: Over the course of Jerry Brown’s first term, budget resources and political support for enforcing workplace safety regulations on California employers declined, and there was no effective overall response by labor.  Persistent efforts by individual labor activists and OHS groups, however, has led to additional resources and staffing for Cal/OSHA being promised at the start of Brown’s second term.

 Conclusion:  The ideology and policies of corporate Democrats in California undermined protections of workers’ health and safety in California from 2011-14.  An ineffective response by labor officials and lobbyists was unable to counteract this trend.  Ongoing publicity and campaigns for effective workplace protections are necessary for making political promises in 2015 a reality.

Learning Areas:

Occupational health and safety

Learning Objectives:
identify the motivating factors for and describe the reduction into workplace health and safety protections in California from 2011-14; and assess the effectiveness of the response by union officials and labor lobbyists in California, and define the elements of a more successful strategy to ensure sufficient resources, staffing and political support for protection of workers’ health and safety on the job.

Keyword(s): Occupational Health and Safety, Labor

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I worked as a field compliance officer for Cal/OSHA for 18 years, and then served as Special Assistant to the Chief of the Division for 2.5 years. Among my responsibilities at Cal/OSHA Headquarters was budgeting and staffing.
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.