According to a report released today the AFL-CIO, Latino workers are 19 percent more likely to be killed on the job than the national average, leading to nearly 800 deaths on the job in 2013. In California, Latinos made up almost 50 percent of all worker fatalities. 194 Latino workers died while on the job in California, an alarming increase of 42 percent from the previous year.
The report, entitled Death on the Job: The Toll of Neglect, marks the 25th year the AFL-CIO has produced its findings on the state of safety and health protections for workers within the United States.
Findings from the report show 4,405 workers in total were killed in the United States during 2013 due to workplace injuries. Additionally an estimated 50,000-60,000 died from occupational diseases, resulting in a loss of nearly 150 workers each day from preventable workplace conditions. In 2013, there were 879 workplace deaths reported among immigrant workers, up from the 824 deaths in 2012.
After California, the states with the greatest number of Latino worker fatalities were Texas with 192 deaths and Florida with 68. Of the foreign-born workers who were injured fatally at work in 2013, 41% were from Mexico.
Latino workers face the greatest dangers in the construction, energy, and landscaping. While 231 Latinos were killed on the job in the construction industry, the landscaping industry saw a doubling of Latino deaths, and Latino deaths in the oil and gas sector have increased threefold since 2009.
Immigrant workers face the largest risk of death on the job, as they are often subject to employer exploitation and face retaliation if they raise job safety concerns. Immigrant worker fatalities in the construction industry alone have risen 14 percent since 2011, with 66 percent of all Latino workers being immigrant workers.
AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said:
“The disturbing rate of deaths on the job within the Latino community is a prime example of the need for all workers to have a greater voice in the workplace. Congressional inaction on meaningful immigration reform and predatory practices big businesses have left too many Latino workers in the shadows. The time is now to lift their voices, strengthen their protections, and ensure that everyone has access to good job and a safe job.”
California workers and advocates are determined to improve safety on the job for all workers. In the past year alone, the California Labor Federation successfully advocated for the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA) to increase inspection staffing levels and forty-four new positions have been added in this year alone. This will substantially expand inspection capacity and improve enforcement of existing workplace laws and standards.
In February the Cal/OSHA Standards Board responded to calls for action from labor unions and activists and approved historic reforms to California’s heat illness prevention standard. The new provisions are effective this year and guarantee stronger protections for workers in time for the upcoming summer. These reforms strengthened shade requirements for employees, increased observation for new workers in high hear areas, guarantee access to cool and fresh water, and require employers to develop emergency response procedures. These new standards will save lives in a number of industries.
While workers have stood together to secure these and many other vital improvements for workplace safety, the new Death on the Job: The Toll of Neglect serves as a reminder for the desperation many workers continue face on the job.
To address this, the California Labor Federation is also supporting new regulatory proposals that have the potential to affect many Latino workers, including the hotel housekeeper regulations, workplace violence prevention standards, and others. For example, Assembly Bill 1509 (Hernández) aims to strengthen retaliation protection for the subcontracted economy. A recent report ProPublica found that in California, temporary workers face a 50% greater risk of getting injured on the job than permanent employees. That disparity was even greater for serious accidents, especially since the growth of labor contractors has been most pronounced in blue-collar industries. For too many workers in California, employers use the threat of terminating the contract with the staffing agency or contractor if workers exercise protected labor rights, including whistle blowing for unsafe working conditions.
You can read more about the California Labor Federation’s 2015 legislative agenda here.