Q&A with Jessica Martinez, Candidate for Cal OSHA Chief
by Jora Trang
I’ve been in the trenches of occupational health and safety work with Jessica Martinez for the past decade pushing for increased worker power and better working conditions. Worksafe is proud to endorse Jessica along with many of our allies and partners for the position of Cal OSHA Chief. Governor Newsom is currently considering candidates for this position so if you haven’t already joined others such as UFCW, SEIU, Western State Council, CA Teamsters Public Affairs Council, UNITE HERE, CA Federation of Teachers, CA Conference of Machinists, CA Legislative Latino Caucus, Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, and the California Labor Fed, feel free to reach out to the Governor’s Appointments Office to let them know. Many of us showed our support in a collaborative endorsement letter that was sent to the Governor in November.
Jessica is the co-executive director for the National Council for Occupational Safety and Health (National COSH) where she has led an exceptional and dedicated team for over nine years at the national level. In her position, she spearheaded a national network with over 26 local organizations and led program development, organizing efforts, public policy and education initiatives. She has earned and gained the trust of worker advocates and leaders across the country. This has led to National COSH’s ability to build and strengthen coalitions throughout the nation that engage workers as leaders in achieving critical workplace health and safety improvements.
Jessica’s experiences in worker health and safety have been extensive and enriched by her personal and professional encounters. She is the proud daughter of immigrant parents who held various jobs in the service sector to sustain their family. She has over two decades supporting and advocating for the safety and health of workers in California and across the country. At the core of her work is her passion, leadership, and dedication to workers’ rights, which she and many of her supporters believe make her the ideal candidate to serve as the Chief of Cal/OSHA. She is committed to protecting workers and continuously improving workplace safety and health, especially those most vulnerable to poor working conditions — low-wage workers of color, immigrants, women, and youth.
But let’s hear from Jessica. We caught up with Jessica to learn more about what she’s all about.
Question: You’ve actually been an advocate for workers rights for a long time. How did you start out?
Jessica: Being the daughter of a union leader and human rights activist father, I learned at a very young age the value of safe and quality jobs. However, I immersed myself as a worker rights advocate while studying at UCLA and simultaneously supporting food service workers on campus to gain access to safe jobs and fair pay. It was important to me to find the intersection between being a student at a prestigious academic institution and ensuring that its prestige was also rooted in providing quality jobs for all its workers.
Question: What is your leadership style and what has that experience looked like?
Jessica: I provide strategic, collaborative, and innovative leadership. As a tactical leader, I have led facilitation and development of strategic planning that have led to successful implementation of work plans and organizational goals. In addition, implemented capacity building programs for organizations and professional development opportunities for staff and board leaders.
Establishing key partnerships and collaborations has proven critical to achieving transformational change. I establish partnerships among diverse stakeholders — workers, public health and health and safety technical professionals, directors and staff of different organizations across the country, legal reps and lawyers, labor reps, and government representatives.
Lastly, I have led several work groups and committees in local and national efforts to recommend and oversee the implementation of OSH policy — including the development of the National Agenda for Worker Health and Safety, served on National Advisory Committee for Occupational Safety and Health (NACOSH) under the Obama Administration, Temp Worker Health and Safety Convene, among many others. Finally, I have extensive experience serving as the public spokesperson of national efforts promoting worker safety and health. In this capacity have managed public interviews among the media and press and have served as speaker at special events.
Question: What has been the fuel or fire for your work? Why are you so passionate about workers’ health and safety?
Jessica: Throughout my years working in the field of occupational safety and health, I have learned of tragic stories of workers dying on the job and workers suffering severe injury and/or illness, all which could have been prevented. I believe that every worker should return home safe and sound to their loved ones after their work shift… this should not only be a worker’s right but an essential human right! A healthy worker has a domino effect on their family and community, which in turn creates a healthy society. I am passionate about creating a fair, equal, and healthy society!
Question: What work have you done with industry or employers to ensure a healthy and safe workplace?
Jessica: I am experienced in the development and implementation of robust health and safety education programs for small businesses. While working for the UCLA Labor Occupational Safety and Health Program, I supported diverse small business owners throughout CA and the country to incorporate multilingual safety plans and training for workers. One of my specialities is convening multiple stakeholders to execute shared goals and objectives to maintain high standards for safe workplaces.
I am in tune with the needs and challenges of small businesses during the ongoing pandemic. My leadership and vision communicate clearly the benefits of small businesses having a preventative plan to minimize workplace hazards and implement safety procedures that build healthy and productive businesses that support the owners and the workforce.
And there you have it. Now, more than ever, with the pandemic still raging in workplaces across California, we need a Chief who understands the plight of workers. Once again, feel free to reach out to the Governor’s Appointment office at (916) 445–4541 to put a good word in.