Employment conditions and benefits – such as fair wages, time off for illness and leisure, health insurance, access to personal protective equipment, training on health and safety, or the right to collective bargaining – all impact worker and community health. San Francisco has taken a number of steps to improve working conditions, including providing a higher local minimum wage, paid sick leave and health care contributions for all employees. However, monitoring and enforcement of labor laws is challenging and incomplete, and many low-wage and immigrant workers do not benefit from these health-promoting and progressive policies. Many low-income workers and immigrants commonly experience “wage theft” or the non-payment of wages earned and other labor rights violations. Improving compliance with workplace laws can help create safer, healthier workers and work environments and decrease burden on the public safety net.
Over the past decade, the San Francisco Department of Public Health has worked with workers, worker centers, employers, community advocates, city and state agencies, researchers and others to reduce health disparities resulting from poor work environments. SFDPH provides research, health impact assessments, and other technical support for initiatives to improve health and safety for low income and immigrant workers. The Department has also built relationships with enforcement agencies and community organizations to facilitate compliance with existing labor laws.
Enhancing Compliance and Enforcement
Recognizing that compliance with existing labor laws is an important first step towards promotion of more health-protective work environments, SFDPH has begun to explore how it can use its authority as a city and regulatory agency to promote compliance. To date, this has included:
- Requiring proof of workers’ compensation for all health permits
- Suspending health permits of businesses failing to pay minimum wage or provide workers’ compensation
- Increasing communication and collaboration with labor law enforcement agencies
- Observing and reporting lack of compliance with labor law posting requirements
- Supporting educational outreach to workers and employers
Informing Public Policy
SFDPH analyzed the health impacts of proposed state legislation establishing domestic worker occupational health and labor standards upon worker and client health.
SFDPH analyzed the health impacts of proposed state and federal legislation requiring the provision of paid sick leave to employees.
SFDPH analyzed the impacts of increasing minimum wage upon community health outcomes.
Assessment and Research
Through a three year community-based participatory research project with the Chinese Progressive Association, UC Berkeley, UCSF and the Labor Occupational Health Program, SFDPH worked to document and improve work and living conditions faced by restaurant workers in San Francisco’s Chinatown.
SFDPH wrote a report to profile employment and labor conditions in San Francisco and their impact on worker and community health.
Through a four year partnership project with La Raza Centro Legal’s Day Labor Program and Women’s Collective, SFDPH worked to address occupational health disparities among day laborers and domestic workers in San Francisco. This project involved the creation and distribution of:
- A nationally-recognized day laborers’ health and safety curriculum
- Vocational training and safe cleaning programs for day laborers and domestic workers
- Digital stories about the economic contributions and dangerous work environment faced by day laborers and domestic workers