Participants attending the 10th annual Young Worker Leadership Academy in Berkeley arrived as teens and left as leaders well-versed about their health and safety rights in California. Following three days of intensive training from specialists at the UC Berkeley Labor Occupational Health Program (LOHP) and guest speakers from Cal/OSHA, the Division of Labor Standards Enforcement, and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, twenty-four students departed with a plan to share what they learned with their peers and their communities.
Held at UC Berkeley from January 31 to February 2, 2014, the Academy hosted six teams of youths from across the state along with their adult mentors. Participants from mostly low-income, minority communities in Santa Ana, Los Angeles, Moss Landing, San Francisco, and Berkeley received a $50 stipend each and two nights of hotel accommodation to attend.
Diane Bush, Valeria Velazquez, and Kelsie Scruggs from LOHP organized the annual event where teens age 14 to 17 work side-by-side with adult mentors with a goal of promoting positive employment environments for California youth.
Participants expressed surprise when they learned there are specific laws that protect teens from doing some of the most hazardous types of work, says Bush, and that undocumented youth workers have the same health and safety protections as others in the state. “It’s exciting to see teens come in to the Academy rather quiet, and by the end, they’re engaged with making change in their communities – it’s impressive in two and half days.”
Many teenagers at the Academy may be the first in their family to go to college, Bush says. To help them, LOHP brings in a panel of students from bridging programs designed to help youth from low-income families to graduate high school and go to college. Sharing their personal stories, they encourage teens to envision a future they might not otherwise believe is within reach.
Major funding for the Academy came from the Commission on Health and Safety and Workers’ Compensation with top-up contributions from the California Teachers Association, the Laborers International Union of North America, the State Building and Construction Trades Council of California, Pacific Compensation Insurance, and the State Compensation Insurance Fund.
Learn more about LOHP’s health and safety outreach projects to help young workers at http://lohp.org/young-workers.
Find this article and others online at http://coeh.berkeley.edu/bridges