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OSHA Region V reached out to Latino and other vulnerable workers at the Worker Health and Safety Public Forum sponsored by the Arise Chicago Worker Center at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) on March 9, 2011.  The forum was another example of OSHA's efforts to follow up on the success of the April 2010 OSHA National Action Summit for Latino Worker Health & Safety to reach out to diverse and high-risk workers. 

The forum, which was free and open to the public, enabled workers to share their workplace safety and health experiences with OSHA and other participants.  OSHA representatives provided safety and health materials, including worker rights information, to the forum’s attendees.  OSHA representatives also participated in a question and answer session with workers and other participants.

Arise Chicago partners with faith communities and workers to fight workplace injustice through education and organizing and advocating for public policy changes.  The Arise Chicago Worker Center is a member-based community resource for workers, both immigrant and native born, to learn about their rights and to join fellow workers to organize to improve workplace conditions.

In addition to representatives from ARISE Chicago and OSHA, the forum included attendees from:

  • UIC School of Public Health and Labor Education Program
  • Chicago Area Committee on Occupational Safety and Health (Chicago COSH)
  • Restaurant Opportunities Center of Chicago
  • Centro de Trabajadores Unidos
  • Indiana, Illinois, Iowa Foundation for Fair Contracting
  • Women Employed
  • Workers compensation/labor attorneys on the Arise Chicago board

At the forum, Arise Chicago released the results of a grassroots health and safety survey of 300 low-wage workers.  Examples of results from the survey included:  42% of the surveyed workers had not been given any personal protective equipment, 87% had never filed a complaint with OSHA, and 59% had no awareness of OSHA.  Arise Chicago’s representatives said that the survey highlighted the need for continued awareness training among high-risk and low-wage workers, many of whom had no prior knowledge of OSHA.

These were a few of the many statements made by workers at the forum:

  • "I want to thank OSHA for giving us this training."
  • "Safety training helps a worker get better opportunity in jobs because employers want people who have this training."
  • "Training helps the workers to have the confidence to request chemical protection from the employer."
  • "Workers who are trained can help train coworkers in safety and other issues. We have access to experts to answer questions now."

Other OSHA Region V worker outreach activities

The Arise Worker Health and Safety Public Forum was one of a number of recent activities by OSHA Region V to reach out to workers.  Other recent activities included:

  • In June 2010, OSHA and Interfaith Worker Justice Centers (IWJ) held a Latino Summit to give vulnerable Chicago area workers a voice concerning their working conditions. Arise Chicago, a member of IWJ, was a key participant at this forum.
  • Since the June 2010 Summit, OSHA Region V has worked closely with IWJ-affiliate Worker Rights Centers, especially in Wisconsin, Ohio, and Illinois, to expand health and safety outreach to vulnerable non-organized and immigrant worker populations.  One of the successes to come out of the initiative has been a closer relationship between OSHA Area Offices and Worker Rights Centers.  These relationships include the OSHA Chicago North, Illinois Area Office and Arise Chicago, the OSHA Madison, Wisconsin Area Office and Madison Interfaith Worker Rights Center, the OSHA Milwaukee, Wisconsin Area Office and Voces de la Frontera, and the OSHA Cincinnati and Columbus, Ohio Area Offices and Cincinnati Interfaith Worker Rights Center. 
  • The Compliance Assistance Specialists and Labor Liaison in OSHA Region V have worked with the U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division (WHD) and other partners such as UIC School of Public Health to begin outreach to congregations and to initiate pilot projects in the restaurant and carwash sectors.  These collaborations have helped raise workers’ awareness of their workplace rights and have resulted in an increase in enforcement referrals between OSHA and WHD. 

According to Lisa Sciolaro, the OSHA Region V Labor Liaison, the collaboration between OSHA Region V and Arise Chicago has led to several workers filing workplace safety and health and whistleblower complaints.  In addition, Ms. Sciolaro and Arise Chicago representatives believe that their efforts have resulted in more workers educating one another on the job and engaging their employers to work with them to identify and abate workplace hazards cooperatively. 

For more information, please contact Lisa Sciolaro.

As of March 2011.



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