Sen. Gonzalez Announces SB 606 to Create Stronger Enforcement Measures to Keep Workers Safe as the COVID-19 Pandemic Continues

February 18, 2021
Sacramento, Calif. – Today, Senator Lena A. Gonzalez (D- Long Beach) announced the introduction of new legislation to address the need for stronger enforcement measures to keep workers safe as the COVID-19 pandemic continues. SB 606 would give the Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA) the necessary tools to hold large employers accountable for workplace health and safety violations and strengthen worker protections to encourage workers to report unsafe working conditions and prevent employer retaliation. 
 
To date, California has over 3.4 million confirmed COVID-19 cases and over 47,000 deaths due to the virus. Improved health and safety enforcement policies would prevent widespread COVID-19 related violations that increase workers’ chances of exposure to the virus, such as the failure to provide personal protective equipment, testing or adequate social distancing. 
 
“We cannot allow large corporations to shrug aside their responsibilities. Paying fines that amount to no more than a tiny fraction of their profits and refusing to provide workers safe working conditions is irresponsible and unconscionable,” said Senator Lena Gonzalez (D-Long Beach). “Workers in agriculture, grocery stores, the garment and meatpacking industries and so many others, are the reason our economy can keep moving forward during these devastating times. We owe them all our gratitude for helping to keep our families fed and our community running. And it is not enough to thank them with words; we need to thank them by making sure they have safe working conditions now and in the future.”    
 
Worker rights advocates expressed their support for SB 606 and elevated the importance of creating stronger health and safety enforcement measures in the workplace. 
 
“Enforcement is key to worker safety, but if penalties are too low or enforcement takes too long there is no deterrent to big corporations who flaunt workplace safety rules," said Andrea Zinder, President, UFCW Western States Council and UFCW Local 324. “This commonsense legislation will protect workers and the communities where they live by bringing Cal/OSHA penalties up to the federal limit for the most egregious violations. These penalties apply to the biggest businesses whose flagrant disregard for their workers’ safety resulted in outbreaks at meatpacking plants, grocery stores, and retail stores. By passing SB 606, we can protect California's workers from COVID-19 every day they go to work until the pandemic is behind us.”
 
"All California workers deserve real protections from COVID-19 and other workplace hazards," said Stephen Knight, Executive Director, Worksafe. "These common sense reforms will strengthen Cal/OSHA’s ability to hold major corporations accountable for flagrant violations of worker health and safety laws."
 
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Senator Gonzalez represents the 33rd Senate District, which includes the City of Long Beach and portions of South Los Angeles and South East Los Angeles including the cities of Bell, Bell Gardens, Cudahy, Huntington Park, Lakewood, Lynwood, Maywood, Paramount, Signal Hill, and South Gate. Senator Gonzalez lives in Long Beach with her husband Adam and three sons.
 
The United Food and Commercial Workers Western States Council is the regional coordinating body of 11 UFCW local unions representing over 200,000 workers in California, Arizona, Nevada, and Utah. The Council is a part of the 1.2-million-member strong UFCW International Union. UFCW members are standing together to improve the lives of workers, families, and communities.
 
Worksafe is a California-based organization dedicated to promoting and protecting the basic right of all people to a safe and healthy workplace.