National COSH

The National Council for Occupational Safety and Health (formerly the "National COSH Network")

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The National COSH is currently pursuing two national campaigns:

An Immigrant Workers Campaign calling for greater protections for immigrant workers, whether documented or undocumented, from workplace hazards; and

A Campaign to Stop Corporate Killing calling for prosecution of employers whose reckless or negligent conduct results in the death of a worker.

Immigrant Workers Campaign

Join a national movement to protect the rights of immigrant workers

Immigrant workers contribute enormously to our economy but too often are exploited due to their undocumented status. The National COSH together with allies in the labor movement and immigrants’ rights organizations, is developing a national campaign to protect the health and safety of immigrants on the job.

We are calling for the following:

  1. All workers, whether they have legal work documents or not, who file complaints to OSHA should be protected from retaliation.

  2. State and federal OSHA programs should develop policies prohibiting agency staff from referring undocumented workers to the INS.

  3. State and federal OSHA programs should ensure that all employers train their non-English speaking workers in a manner that the workers understand. (I.e., not simply providing training materials in English.)

  4. OSHA programs should increase outreach and educational efforts to immigrant workers with limited English.

  5. OSHA programs should ensure that they have adequate linguistic capacity to meet the needs of limited-English workers.

  6. OSHA programs should maintain adequate enforcement in low-wage, high-hazard industries in which most immigrants work.

If you want to work with us in promoting these objectives, please contact us.

Resources and Documents relating to the Campaign:

bullet

Evaluation of OSHA’s Handling of Immigrant Fatalities in the Workplace, Office of Inspector General, USDOL, Sept. 30 2003. An assessment of OSHA’s actions to protect immigrant workers which contains a number of important recommendations for actions.

bullet“Focus on Enforcing the Labor Rights of all Workers: Post Hoffman Plastics Issues.” Chapter of Low Pay, High Risk, by the National Employment Law Project. An excellent review of the issues raised by the Hoffman Plastics decision which threatens undocumented workers’ protections under federal labor laws.
bullet“Used and Abused: The Treatment of Undocumented Victims of Labor Law Violations since Hoffman Plastic Compounds vs. NLRB.” Another excellent review by NELP on employers’ efforts to deny undocumented workers their rights under federal labor laws.
bullet “Overview of Immigrant Workers’ Rights.” A review by NELP of undocumented immigrants’ rights under a variety of federal labor laws.
bulletSee our Immigrant Workers page for many other useful resources.

Campaign to Stop Corporate Killing

Every year some 5,000 workers are killed on the job and thousands more die from illnesses caused by occupational exposures. Many of these deaths are determined by state and federal OSHA investigations to be due to employers’ reckless disregard for worker safety. But, as documented in a recent New York Times series, prosecutions of recklessly negligent employers are extremely rare. Of the 170,000 workplace deaths since 1982, only 16 convictions involving jail time have resulted. This despite the fact that 1,798 cases involving worker deaths were determined by OSHA to involve “willful” violations by employers–that is, violations in which the employer knew that workers’ lives were being put at risk.

Killing a worker is currently considered a misdemeanor under federal law, with a maximum sentence of six months in jail. Even for willful violations, fines are typically under $25,000. Conviction for unlawful aerial harassment of mule deer, in contrast, can bring up to five years in jail and a $250,000 fine. It is time to reconsider our reluctance to employ significant criminal penalties in cases where gross negligence results in the death of a worker.

The National COSH and its affiliates around the country are calling for the following:

1) OSHA should refer cases involving reckless disregard for worker safety to U.S. attorneys for prosecution;

2) Local District Attorneys should prosecute employers whose actions result in workers’ deaths to the fullest extent possible under state and local criminal law.

3) Fines in cases of willful violations of OSHA standards leading to the death of a worker should be increased significantly to provide a real deterrent to reckless disregard for worker safety.

Resources and Documents relating to the Campaign:

bulletA sample letter to the editor that you can adapt to use to write to newspapers following the death of a worker. Most newspapers report worker deaths as if they are completely unavoidable “Acts of God.” Write your local newspaper and tell them that it ain’t so–that most worker deaths can be prevented.
bulletThe New York Times series “When Workers Die” contains a wealth of detail about federal OSHA’s failure to refer cases for prosecution. Unfortunately, it is only available on a fee basis now. (If this link doesn’t work, search the Times’ archives for ‘When Workers Die.” (Published December 21-23, 2003.)
bulletHazards Magazine/Trade Unions Council (United Kingdom) Site has an extensive collection of resources around issues related to criminal prosecution of reckless employers.

Links to other organizations working on this issue

USMWF: United Support and Memorial for Workplace Fatalities. An organization of families members of people killed on the job, dedicated to preventing future workplace tragedies.