Worksafe x UC Berkeley: Training A New Generation of Community Advocacy Leaders

by Lucy Morales and Rachel van Geenhoven

One of Worksafe’s roles in the community is to provide trainings to workers experiencing Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) issues in their workplace. We design our trainings using popular education models which center accessibility for the broadest possible range of literacy levels, exposure to technology, etc. During these trainings, workers learn how to identify illegal hazards and advocate for safer workplaces.

Worksafe was excited to have been invited last semester to participate in a Community-Engaged Labor Studies Course at UC Berkeley, which seeks to address the complex and intersecting problems of the world through innovative collaborations between multiple disciplines, sectors, and communities. Students were required to complete a small-scale project to support the work of the various community organizations participating in the class, each of which created a video “marketing” their cause to the students. We decided to ask students to create a popular education training for the Day Laborer Comité, a group which is collaborating with Worksafe through a grant from the California Department of Public Health.

Four students expressed interest in our project, and as the CDHP project coordinator, I was responsible for leading the cohort, teaching them about the project and the worker comité, answering all of their questions, and guiding them as they created a training. We started by presenting students with several training topics in which the comité members had expressed interest, and the students decided to put together a virtual presentation on Civic Engagement and Policy Advocacy.

I was also tasked with helping the entire class better understand the popular education model. Worksafe Staff Attorney AnaStacia and I led the class through Worksafe’s OSH training using a train-the-trainer format, with students working to understand the purpose and methods of the training rather than simply receiving and incorporating the information. Students were able to identify several OSH hazards they had experienced in various jobs they’ve held, which helped to ground their understanding of OSH hazards. We were also interviewed by a different group of students to learn more about the training.

Throughout the spring, I was in close contact with the team working on our project, answering questions, providing feedback and guidance. Before I knew it I was back in the classroom to see what they came up with. I knew Berkeley students were smart (I mean our Chief of Staff and Equity Jora is a Golden Bear herself)… but these students truly blew me away. Their final project used various tools they learned in class including a systems map, stakeholders map, a team asset map and interviews to put together an interactive and thorough presentation sure to engage the workers.

A few weeks later, I led the comité through the popular education models and exercises the students put together, and as expected, the workers came out of it understanding the importance of civil and policy advocacy–including the ones who couldn’t access the visual presentation. Everyone participated and the comité leaders left feeling empowered and ready to advocate for policy changes with the state and CDPH.

In short, our collaboration with these students was deeply rewarding and reciprocal, and we’re so excited to do our part to create a new generation of advocates and community leaders!

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The Machine Guard - a Blog of Worksafe

We work to protect people from job-related hazards and empower us all to advocate for the right to a safe and healthy workplace.