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Social issues, discrimination faced by low-wage workers in Syracuse highlighted in report

The social issues and the gender, racial and ethnic discrimination faced by low-wage workers are highlighted in the third report by the Low-Wage Workers’ Health Project, released Jan. 18 by Upstate Medical University’s Occupational Health Clinical Centers (OHCC), in partnership with the Workforce Development Institute. The report points to the current state of the health, well-being, and safety of low-wage workers in Syracuse.

The report, “Mapping the Landscape of Low-Wage Work and Health in Syracuse...Continuing the Conversation,” can be found here: http://ohccupstate.org/pdfs/LWWHP%202017.pdf

According to Project Director Jeanette Zoeckler, MPH, this latest report also identifies health and safety problems of low-wage workers across industries, such as poor air quality.

It includes other concerns, such as poorly maintained machinery; hazards that could potentially lead to slips, trips and falls, high work demands, low work control, lack of managerial support, bullying and workplace violence.

“The workers who participated in our focus groups emphasized how the boundaries between work and non-work life are blurred, how stepping forward to address problematic work-related health conditions is difficult,” said Zoeckler, a public health project manager at OHCC. “They recounted instances of gender, racial and ethnic discrimination, wage theft, erratic schedules, and how exhausted they are due to long hours or having to work two jobs to make ends meet.” She adds that workers who were union members achieved more success when unsafe work conditions are encountered, correlating with findings from the project’s previous reports.

Zoeckler says that the report can serve as a guide for legislators as they create workplace health and safety policies and for companies that are looking for ways to improve their work environment. “This project can serve as the springboard for more initiatives that will lead to a better understanding of the needs and risks of low-wage workers. Outcomes of these initiatives should stimulate social, legal and political changes needed to reduce risks to occupational health and improve the quality of work-life in Syracuse.”

Funded in part by the Workforce Development Institute, the Low-Wage Workers Health Project has engaged with a total of 559 low-wage workers in Syracuse in three phases since 2013. Previous reports were released in Spring 2014 and Fall 2015. The project defines low-wage workers as those making less than a living wage of about $15 per hour in Onondaga County.

The project is a collaboration based at the Occupational Health Clinical Centers, a specialty clinic serving the occupational health needs of 26 counties of New York State, affiliated with Upstate Medical University and funded by a grant administered through the New York State Department of Health.

For more information, contact Jeanette Zoeckler, project manager at Occupational Health Clinical Center (315) 432-8899, ext. 103; zoecklej@upstate.edu, or David Goodness, director of CNY Regional Workforce Development Institute, (315) 426-1383; dgoodness@wdiny.org.

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