Union & Worker Action

The law places the primary duty on the employer to provide a safe place to work. However, workers and their unions have an important role to play in enforcing this responsibility at job sites. Workers best understand their job site, work processes, and the hazards they may face. The key to effective union and worker action on the job is getting organized: educating about workers' rights and how to enforce them, how to prevent injuries and illnesses, and how to secure prompt abatement of workplace hazards.

Safety and Health Committees
One important way workers can protect themselves on the job is through safety and health committees. Your union can bring together a committee of union members, staff and elected officials. And your union can establish with management a joint labor-management health and safety committee. Committees provide workers a way to be involved and aware and also may give workers some authority to oversee and enforce workplace safety.

Union Committees
Unions can form committees for a specific job (in construction) or for a fixed work site. This fact sheet [PDF] explains the different types of safety committees, how they work and how to start one.

Joint Labor-Management Committees
These committees are established via negotiation with an employer, and this fact sheet [PDF] provides sample contract language for establishing such a committee.

Fact Sheets: Raising Awareness at Work
Workers need to know their rights and the procedures for enforcing them. Feel free to copy the fact sheets to give workers the knowledge they need to keep themselves safe on the job.

You have the right to a safe place to work.

If your employer refuses to correct an unsafe or unhealthy work condition.

Workers' Rights and Employers' Responsibilities
In California, the Division of Occupational Safety and Health or Cal/OSHA is the government agency responsible for enforcing the employers' duty to provide a safe and healthful place to work. On the Cal/OSHA website is an outline of some of the main rights guaranteed to workers and some of the main responsibilities incumbent on employers regarding workplace safety and health. Follow these links:

Cal/OSHA: Workers' Rights

Cal/OSHA: Employers' Responsibilities