COSH Network e-newsletter: March 2013

8/8/13 10:45 AM

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COSH Network E-Newsletter: March 2013

Welcome to the new monthly COSH Network e-newsletter, which will feature the work of COSH groups around the country, national campaigns, the Grow COSH Project, and more! Because this is a new newsletter and format, we'd encourage you to share feedback.

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In This Issue:
National COSH Stands in Solidarity with Hyatt Housekeepers New Worker Center In Western New York Grow COSH Project Grows Network Update: Workers' Memorial Week of Action

National Policy Update: Hotel Housekeepers Rise Up!
The COSH Network stands in solidarity with Hyatt hotel housekeepers, who are predominantly women of color, in their efforts to fight for dignified jobs and a right to go home safe and healthy to their families.
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COSH Network e-newsletter: March 2013

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COSH leaders have pledged to support the global boycott against Hyatt hotels due to their persistent exploitation of workers through unscrupulous employer practices that have led to rampant injury rates, lack of respect, and low wages. On Tuesday, March 19, representatives from National COSH, Southern California COSH (SoCalCOSH), and Worksafe joined a delegation of hotel housekeepers at the Cal/OSHA Advisory Board Meeting in support of a Housekeeping Standard proposed by UNITE HERE. The standard outlines safe housekeeping practices and equipment that would significantly reduce the incidence and severity of occupational injuries and illnesses related to the industry. Some of the workplace hazards that hotel housekeepers’ face include: Musculoskeletal disorders from bending, pushing carts, and making beds; Traumatic injuries from slips, trips, and falls; Respiratory illnesses from cleaning products that contain substances such as irritant aerosols and bleaching agents; Skin reactions from detergents and latex; Infectious diseases from agents such as biologi​ cal waste (e.g., feces and vomit) and bloodborne pathogens found on broken glass and uncapped needles; and Occupational stress due to workloads, job insecurity, low pay, and discrimination. As worker advocates, we cannot stand by and allow anyone to profit off the injured backs of the most vulnerable workers in the country. We will persist in our support and hope that Cal/OSHA takes the right steps to adopt the proposed UNITE HERE housekeeping standard and that Hyatt Hotels across the country improve working conditions and reduce physical strain for housekeepers by complying with such standards in place. For more information regarding the boycott, visit www.hyatthurts.org.
UNITE HERE Hotel Housekeepers Organizing!

Shirley “Sumaq” Alvarado de Aguila (right) and Jessica E. Martinez (left) from the COSH Network making public comments in support of a housekeepers standard at the Cal/OSHA Advisory Board.

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New Worker Center Reaches Out to Refugee Community in Buffalo
The Western New York Worker Center is a collaborative project spearheaded by WNYCOSH and works with other community, labor, legal and faith groups to blend community organizing with labor solidarity to help empower low-wage, unorganized, minority, immigrant and refugee workers. WNYCOSH has built relationships with refugee resettlement agencies across Western New York to train new populations on workplace rights, laws and health and safety at work. The refugee community is a rapidly growing population in the Buffalo area, in particular, and includes people from Nepal, Iraq, Burma, Eritrea, Bhutan, Somalia and Turkey. The refugees work most frequently in the hotel/housekeeping, custodial and restaurant industries. WNYCOSH and its partners help these groups with risk-mapping, primarily for ergonomic hazards, as well as role-playing about scenarios that workers have identified, such as having wages withheld by a boss, being asked to do an unsafe task at work and getting hurt, and being fired for speaking out about unsafe conditions. The Worker Center has led trainings on Know Your Rights Under OSHA, wage theft, discriminatory practices at work and general identification of hazards on the job. The Western New York Worker Center emerged from a series of conversations among
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WNYCOSH’s board members and MassCOSH, which has operated a Worker Center for years. Given Buffalo’s density of low-wage workers, a changing workforce and its ranking as one of the poorest cities in the United States, WNYCOSH hired an organizer, Liz Smith, in 2012 to connect workers not just to health and safety, but also to leadership development and a bridge between unorganized workers and organized labor, community partners and faith leaders.

Grow COSH Project Grows
Health and safety activism is on the rise – and National COSH is at the center of the storm. In early 2012, National COSH developed a plan to assist allies and activist organizers to become connected with the COSH Network. This plan included outreach to geographic areas where there is currently not a COSH group. Our two conferences at the end of 2012 helped bring these efforts together as activists from around the country came together to share resources, hear updates and exchange the ideas for making change for worker rights in health and safety. These conferences resulted in lots of excitement and enthusiasm for staying connected with the COSH movement. Groups from across the nation are preparing to use Workers’ Memorial Week of Action as a way to organize workers and the community around the desperate need for reform in protecting workers from health and safety hazards. The diversity of people and organizations involved in these activities will be key to the impact of these efforts. Some examples of activism nationwide include events in South Texas, spearheaded by Adriana Martinez, who lost her husband Orestes (pictured above) in a construction fatality in 2009; in South Florida, where an upcoming report will highlight serious problems resulting from pesticide exposure; in Tennessee, with a report and events in at least two parts of the state; in Wyoming, where activist groups are gearing up to lead trainings in advance of Workers’ Memorial Week; in Albany, NY, where 35 activists met to launch a COSH group movement and are continuing to work on Workers’ Memorial Week events; in Lincoln, NE, where USMWF’s Tonya Ford will hold her third annual vigil and safety expo; and in North Carolina, where activists will hold an event and issue a report. Other events are being held in Seattle, WA; Pasadena, CA; Lexington, KY; and Pittsburgh, PA, among other areas. National COSH is encouraged about the expansion of these activities this year and plans to help organize this activity into long-term, sustained health and safety activism connected with the National COSH
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Network. Together, we will grow and strengthen the movement for worker rights in health and safety.

Network Update: Workers' Memorial Week of Action
COSH groups and allies around the country are gearing up for what looks to be the largest annual commemoration of Workers' Memorial Day yet. This year, National COSH is kicking off Workers' Memorial Week of Action, which will take place from April 22-28, 2013. Visit National COSH's Workers' Memorial Week of Action webpage for more information about reports and events from activists across the nation, as well as resources for how to write a Workers' Memorial Day report, how to garner media attention, and ideas for action. Visit www.workersmemorialweek.org to learn more. Be sure to email Dorry about events or reports in your area, and she'll add them to the list! Stay tuned for more information about National COSH's communications outreach for Workers' Memorial Week of Action, including a telephone press conference, Facebook Town Hall, Twitterstorm, and more.

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