This is a model for every state with a large low wage immigrant work population to follow. California is the most active state in private/public sector expression of concern and action about protecting low wage immigrant workers. I have posted several times about California. This time I am posting about two overlapping initiatives:
AWAHP: The Agricultural Workers Access to Healthcare Project
WCEC: The Workers Compensation Enforcement Collaborative
The Collaborative it aiming to identify employers who are un- or under-insured. It involves a creative mingling of community activist, law enforcement, and state regulatory efforts. Financially supporting the effort is the state’s insurance fraud commission.
According to the Watsonville Law Center, in Watsonville CA (831-722-2845)
“Uninsured employer cases account for 25% of all injured workers served through the Agricultural Workers’ Access to Healthcare Project (2003—2006). Nearly all injured workers whose employers lack workers’ compensation insurance coverage are Spanish-speaking low-wage immigrant workers. These clients are often unaware of or afraid to exercise their right to workers’ compensation benefits because they fear retaliation in the form of termination of employment and/or deportation. Injured workers come to The Watsonville Law Center (WLC) usually because they have not been able to access medical treatment or legal assistance.”
The Agricultural Workers Access to Healthcare Project was formed to assist low-wage immigrant workers access medical treatment and related benefits under the workers’ compensation system. A collaborative between California Rural Legal Assistance, Salud Para La Gente and The Watsonville Law Center, AWAHP is the first of its kind in the state and possibly the nation and noted as a model approach for worker health in California in a report published by the Commission on Health and Safety and Workers’ Compensation under the California Department of Industrial Relations.
The Workers Compensation Enforcement Collaborative (WCEC) is comprised of state and local enforcement agencies and others committed to tracking and addressing barriers to enforcement of low wage immigrant workers’ compensation rights. Over the last year, WCEC has worked to develop goals and objectives to ensure workers are informed of their right to medical treatment and related benefits under the workers’ compensation system, and are provided accessible medical and legal services so they can obtain the medical treatment they need. Agencies represented and proposed goals for the collaborative are listed below.
The Watsonville Law Center, Department of Insurance (DOI) Fraud Division, Santa Cruz and Monterey County Offices of the District Attorney, the Fraud Assessment Commission, Kaiser, the Commission on Health and Safety and Workers’ Compensation (CHSWC) and the U.C. Berkeley Labor and Occupational Health Project. The project is working on developing collaborative partnerships with the following agencies: Workers’ Compensation Injury Rating Bureau (WCIRB), Uninsured Employers Fund (UEF), Division of Labor Standards Enforcement (DLSE), and the Division of Workers’ Compensation (DWC)-Information and Assistance Unit, Salud Para La Gente, California Rural Legal Assistance (CRLA), California Applicants’ Attorney Association (CAAA).