Promotes worker safety by increasing language access for all California workers
- Nate Allbee
- (415) 756-0561
Sacramento – Today, Assemblymember Matt Haney (D-San Francisco) passed AB 2068 through the Senate Labor and Employment Committee to address language barriers in workplaces across California. Currently, California’s Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA) are only mandated to post workplace citations and special orders in English. AB 2068 would require postings prepared by Cal/OSHA to be translated into languages spoken by at least 5% of the workers at the worksite; most commonly Spanish, Chinese, Tagalog. Cal/OSHA postings are often important lifesaving information related to workplace conditions and safety.
“The industries with the highest pandemic-related deaths employ the most immigrant workers usually from Latino, Black, and Asian-Pacific Islander communities and usually non-native English speakers. We want to bridge the language gap for essential workers who showed up in person throughout the COVID-19 pandemic by making sure safety information is available in their language,” said Haney. “This bill addresses a critical language barrier faced by many California workers, especially essential workers who put themselves at risk during pandemic.”
Following each Cal/OSHA investigation of an industrial accident or occupational illness, the department would be required to prepare postings in the appropriate languages so that all workers can understand the conclusions of the Cal/OSHA inspection and the employer’s required actions.
By closing this gap in the current labor code, AB 2068 will ensure proper enforcement of labor laws and make official Cal/OSHA communications and processes more accessible for California’s non-English speaking workers.
Data analysis from the UC Merced Labor Center showed “high-risk” workers were far more likely to be immigrants, and non-citizens. Translated postings would let workers fully understand their workplace conditions and empower them to hold their employers accountable to health and safety standards.
“Workers whose native language is not English deserve a safe workplace, just like English speakers,” said John Grant, President of UFCW Local 770. “UFCW is proud to sponsor this important bill, which will ensure proper enforcement of health and safety laws, empower essential workers including non-English-speaking workers, and provide for safer workplaces across California.”
“When Cal/OSHA requires employers to post notice of a safety violation, the point is that workers know about the hazard, make sure it’s getting fixed, and if necessary, help the agency ensure the law is enforced. But if the posting is only in English, and many—if not most—workers onsite speak a different language, the posting requirement is useless,” said Mitch Steiger Legislative Advocate for California Labor Federation, AFL-CIO. “AB 2068 will finally ensure that these postings, prepared by Cal/OSHA, will be in a language understood by affected workers, so that workers can perform their duties safely. We applaud Assemblymember Haney for authoring this bill and look forward to supporting it throughout the legislative process.”
“Approximately 90 % of my co-workers are Spanish-speaking and over 8% are Vietnamese-speaking. If it were not for our union providing translations, we would have never known that our employer was cited by Cal/OSHA for a set of serious Covid-19 violations including not properly notifying employees of Covid exposure,” said Rina Chavarria, a worker at Farmer John in Vernon. “This bill will help keep us informed about what’s happening with our workplaces and get involved with the investigations. Thank you Assemblymember Haney for authoring this important legislation.”
If the bill passes both houses of the legislature, and is signed into law, AB 2068 will take effect starting January 1, 2023.