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Maintaining Fair Wages and Safe Workplaces in California

Fair living wages have been at the forefront of news coverage in recent years. Controversy over a $15 dollar minimum wage dominated many 2017 news cycles, and for good reason. In places with high costs of living, such as California, higher minimum wages are not just a privilege: they’re essential for living.

A recent report, funded by a coalition of Disneyland employee unions, found that 10% of them earned so little that they experienced homelessness. They also found that 66% could not afford to eat three meals a day.

The report, compiled by Occidental College and the Economic Roundtable on behalf of the union, had other disturbing findings, such as:

The survey included 5,000 employees of the park, which employs around 30,000. One of the study’s authors pointed out the discrepancy between Disney’s profits and what they pass down to their workforce. In a statement, Disney contended that their entry-level employees earn between $11.75 and $17.75 an hour, with many workers earning more through premiums and overtime. They also called the study flawed and biased.

Still, the study’s authors maintain that wages do not keep up with the cost of living in Southern California. They also contend that housing instability has become so commonplace that it’s a “normal part of employee’s lives at the park.”

Searching for Safe Work

As one major Southern California employer faces heavy criticism for unfair pay, others must answer to unsafe working conditions leading to worker injury and death. In San Jose, a GreenWaste driver recently lost his life because his own truck ran him over. Cal-OSHA is investigating the incident, and GreenWaste is cooperating with investigators over their employee’s death, which is the first in the company’s 27-year history.

Your Rights as a Worker

As an employee in California, you have certain rights guaranteed by the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health Administration. Some of these rights include:

Cal-OSHA oversees both public and private workplaces. As a worker, you have a right to a safe workplace reasonably free of hazards. Employers must relay information about any hazards inherent to your job and provide personal protective equipment. If you work with hazardous materials, employers must provide hazardous material data sheets and other safety precautions, such as decontamination showers.

Fair Wages and Worker Safety Are Rights, Not Privileges

California has been one of the most progressive states in the nation when it comes to assuring worker safety and well-being. On the other hand, there is much more to be done. The minimum wage statewide must be addressed as well as make living in California – which is also one of the most expensive places to live in the nation – accessible to all. No one should have to experience housing instability when working a full-time job, as the report about Disney workers seems to suggest.

Workers should also not have to fear for their own safety while performing their job duties. Legislators must band together to create worker reforms that make working and living in our state safe and affordable.