UFCW International Secretary-Treasurer Esther López served as the keynote speaker at the National Conference on Worker Safety and Health (COSHCON 2016) in Linthicum, Md., on Dec. 7. The conference was organized by the National Council for Occupational Safety and Health (COSH) for the purpose of sharing educational and training materials and resources, and strategies for improving workplace health and safety conditions.
This year’s conference focused on the many safety and health issues workers face in the workplace, including language barriers. Many contracts and safety and health documents provided to the workers are not translated in multiple languages, leaving workers who are capable of translating to explain the information to their coworkers themselves.
“No worker should feel left out,” said López. “Providing access to information in multiple languages creates sensibility, and that is a start.”
López went on to speak about three focal points in the aftermath of the election. One, relationships with our members. “We must acknowledge LGBTQ communities, prayer rights, language justice and even supporters of things we may not agree with. We must reach out. We must still welcome them.” Two, build a broader base. “Connect with other sectors outside of labor. Build relationships with refugees. How do we show up for them when ICE raids come back around?” Three, be smarter with regard to coalitions and coordination. “Be strategic in support without stepping over each other. Recognize the lanes you need. Everyone cannot focus on the same thing. Trust each other.”
Many conference attendees stood in agreement with Lopez’s keynote address. Alondra Rosario, a service representative at UFCW Local 1776, said that López’s speech will help her “be more understanding when educating members and have compassion, even for those we don’t agree with.” Rosario went on to say that “Mrs. López truly cares about UFCW as a whole.” Carlos Roman, another service representative at UFCW Local 1776, said that he was honored to hear her speak again. “Being in the organizing department, her speech applies 100 percent. My job is to provide exactly what Esther is saying to our members. We have to protect both current and future workers.”