It’s hard to believe that the federal government’s agency to protect workers, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), is only 50 years old. But the fact that it took the government 60 years after the devastating Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire to create OSHA shows how we’ve been leaving behind workers for decades -- and still are.
OSHA is part of the United States Department of Labor. Its mission is to ensure that workers have safe and healthful conditions on the job
But OSHA inspectors can’t be in all workplaces at all times, especially now that the Trump administration has cut back on the number of inspectors. CWA’s local health and safety committees play a critical role in protecting members at work, identifying issues that affect workers across industries, and fighting for safer conditions for all Americans.
You can learn more about CWA’s health and safety program online at cwa.org/safety.
CWA Member Spotlight: Health and Safety Work at Memnon Publishing
Health and safety concerns have been a top priority for CWA Local 4818 members working at Memnon Archiving Services in Bloomington, Indiana, a company that restores old media (cassettes, vinyl, video, film, etc.) and digitizes it for conservation. Its biggest client is Indiana University.
Workers organized their union around health and safety issues, and they are now about to begin bargaining a first contract. Through their work with their local as health and safety activists, they are continuing to put pressure on management to make long-lasting improvements in workplace conditions, including addressing the exposure to Perchloroethylene, a highly toxic chemical that can cause severe health effects.
Members presented a Letter of Demand to Memnon management to call on them to immediately stop all exposures to PERC because of its imminent danger and to provide alternative work for members who had been working with the chemical. The Letter of Demand also made it clear that the union would have no choice but to file a formal OSHA complaint if an assessment with Indiana’s health and safety consultation program, INSafe, was not initiated immediately. The Union’s Letter of Demand was successful and Memnon management agreed to the INSafe assessment. The CWA members’ efforts to make their workplace safer continue.
From Emily Nickel:
"For me, I think the best part of all the organizing efforts has been the feeling that we, as workers, matter, have a voice, and really do deserve better."
From Hayden Blankenship:
"The experience of attaining a rightful work environment through hard work and sacrifice as a group has been invaluable to me and many other members, and the union made that possible."
From Jackson Maier:
"In my experience, management often puts workers in hazardous conditions, mostly out of sheer ignorance. Management can perceive calls for an examination of safety practices by workers as a challenge to their authority. The only effective way to counter this is to make them listen through organizing. If bosses refuse to take responsibility, we as a union will take it from them."