Please see Blake Gilbert's important letter to the Medford Mail Tribune from 5/26/2021 below. Blake is a active member, steward and labor/management committee person.
Safety for I&M staff
I just want to share my story as private citizen and can not speak for my employer.
I conduct emissions tests on vehicles to protect people from harmful chemicals and particulates emitted from tailpipes. Last fall, our vehicle inspection station was surrounded by hazardous air quality as wildfires raged. We experienced trouble breathing and eye irritation for hours before we were sent home.
Thankfully, our union, AFSCME Local 3336, stepped in and negotiated conditions so our pay was covered and we didn’t have to return to outside work until conditions dropped to “unhealthy.” This isn’t a new problem — workers in Southern Oregon, including at our Medford vehicle inspection station, have suffered from smoke-related hazards and excessive heat for years.
Vehicle inspection staff, among the lowest paid at DEQ, face some of the greatest health risks — that will increase as temperatures rise and drought becomes the new normal. Now it’s time for all Oregon workers to be protected from these conditions.
We have a chance to set decent standards for all through Oregon’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration rule-making process happening now. Let’s demand that OSHA step up and set measurable and enforceable rules based on sound science.