Massachusetts Coalition for Occupational Safety and Health – MassCOSH (pronounced like gosh, or Oshkosh)
Two workers died in a trench in the street that suddenly filled with water and debris in Boston’s South End in 2016. The private company responsible was a known repeat offender of workplace safety rules. Each year hundreds of immigrant and low-wage day laborers suffer wage theft while working for numerous construction companies in Massachusetts. Construction workers are particularly at risk of injury, addiction to painkillers, and ultimately fatal opioid overdoses. From 2011 to 2015, 374 construction workers died of opioid-related overdoses in Massachusetts.
Since 1976, the Massachusetts Coalition for Occupational Safety and Health – MassCOSH – has been fighting for policies and programs that improve working conditions and put an end to unsafe jobs. MassCOSH strives to ensure that all workers earn their living and return home alive and well. MassCOSH unites workers, unions and community groups with environmental and health activists to end dangerous work conditions, to organize for safe, secure jobs, and to advocate for healthy communities. Through training, technical assistance and building community/labor alliances, MassCOSH mobilizes its members and develops leaders in the movement to end unsafe work conditions. MassCOSH has a special focus on workers who are under-represented and often in harm’s way: immigrants, youth, low wage earners, workers of color, emergency response and hazardous waste workers and families of fallen workers. Every year around April 28, MassCOSH and its allies and supporters commemorate Worker Memorial Day in front of the State House in Boston, reading the names of those who died on the job or from work-related disease over the past year. Last year 69 workers died from fatal injury or work-related disease. MassCOSH works with families of fallen workers to find legal assistance, solidarity and emotional support.
In 2018, MassCOSH helped to pass legislation that expanded OSHA protections to 430,000 public sector workers in the state, improved protections for pregnant workers, and increased the fines for corporate manslaughter; trained 332 low-wage immigrants on employment, job health and safety, and legal rights; hired and supported 31 youth peer leaders who in turn trained 320 youth on workplace violence/de-escalation, sexual harassment in the workplace, safety and health, and environmental hazards; helped to shape and launch the national Our Turn Sexual Harassment Action network; matched over 100 immigrant workers with legal assistance and aid to pursue their cases and better navigate the systems of enforcement agencies for workplace injury, discrimination, sexual harassment and wage theft, which helped immigrant workers recover over $20,000 in stolen wages. And in the past year, MassCOSH has developed training programs to train peer leaders – most survivors of opioid addiction themselves – to educate their fellow workers to better understand the risks of opioid painkillers used for chronic conditions and alternative pain treatments that are more effective and less dangerous.
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