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OSHA Summit in Northern California Addresses Asian American and Pacific Islander Worker Safety and Health

Region IX's Regional Administrator Ken Nishiyama Atha gives his opening remarks.

Region IX's Regional Administrator Ken Nishiyama Atha gives his opening remarks.

On May 10, 2011, OSHA's Region IX hosted the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Worker Protection Summit in San Francisco. The California Department of Industrial Relations, the Wage and Hour Division of the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL), local agencies, and community and faith-based groups also participated. More than 150 people attended the summit to discuss worker protection issues, including workplace safety and health, wages and overtime pay protections, and employment discrimination. Peter Wilsey, OSHA's AAPI coordinator for Region IX, coordinated the event.

OSHA Region IX's Regional Administrator Ken Nishiyama Atha gave opening remarks in which he shared his experiences growing up in Hawaii with Japanese- and Filipino-American family members. Pat Shiu, director of DOL's Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs and a member of the Federal Interagency Working Group of the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, gave a keynote speech on affirmative action and non-discrimination laws. She also discussed the Obama Administration's efforts to improve job opportunities for the AAPI community. Newly appointed California OSHA (Cal/OSHA) Chief Ellen Widess and newly appointed California Labor Commissioner Julie Su also spoke at the summit.

The event also featured two interactive panel discussions. One panel included representatives from DOL agencies, including OSHA and the Wage and Hour Division, and representatives from Cal/OSHA. The OSHA representatives discussed whistleblower protection and OSHA rights and responsibilities. The Cal/OSHA representatives discussed Cal/OSHA enforcement, the On-site Consultation Program, and resources available to help employers and workers address workplace hazards. The second panel focused on partnering with community groups, non-profit organizations, and faith-based organizations to improve worker protection. It included representatives from local community organizations including the Alameda Labor Council, Worksafe, Labor Occupational Health Program at the University of California at Berkeley, Asian Immigrant Women Advocates, and Asian Pacific Islander Legal Outreach.

At the conclusion of the event, a workshop was held to assist anyone wishing to file a complaint. Over 15 individuals took forms to file complaints with Cal/OSHA. In addition, DOL and California agencies and non-governmental organizations provided information on worker rights and other topics at exhibit booths. "Language barriers have been shown to increase a workers risk of injury and illness," said OSHA Regional Administrator Atha. "This effort is a great start to reach all workers and ensure they know their rights."

OSHA Region IX will build on the success of this summit and continue its outreach to the AAPI community. For example, Region IX staff participated as an exhibitor and in the federal agency panel at the Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance (APALA) Convention on July 22, 2011, in Oakland, California. The event attracted over 800 participants from across the country. Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis also attended.

For more information, please contact Peter Wilsey.

As of August 2011.

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