Sunday, February 12, 2006

Massachusetts Teens Awarded for Workplace Safety Efforts

As a parent of multiple teenagers, I observe with amusement as well as some sadness parents with young children who have all kinds of lofty aspirations and hopes for their future teenagers. Because by the time you actually have teenagers, everything is reduced to a prayer that they'll emerge at the other end alive, and preferably without becoming pregnant, addicted or arrested.

Too much free time tends to multiply the chances of dangerous encounters with drugs and sex, so we're generally quite happy when our kids get jobs. Until we hear of things like these:
In Boston, 18-year-old Cristian Ribeiro was stabbed and killed in February, 2004 as he pursued a shoplifter who had stolen from the CVS where he was working. One Girls Inc. member shared her friend’s story: while working at a retail establishment in Lynn, she was raped by a pair of men and then locked inside, leaving her helpless and alone. These incidents have been tragic motivators that keep youth at Girls Inc. and MassCOSH’s teen leaders hard at work developing policy and trainings to protect young workers.
Happily, there are people working on preventing these incidents. The Massachusetts Coalition on Occupational Safety and Health (MassCOSH) has recruited team of youth organizers to conduct workshops and other forums for peers to make them aware of hazards on the job and their rights to a safe and healthy working environment.

They produced a report on Workplace Violence Affecting Teens, and faced with the fact that teens in Massachusetts are injured on the job at approximately twice the rate of adults, they are also attacking the problem through the political process, supporting the passage of the Child Labor Reform Bill (House Bill 3790/Senate Bill 1094), meeting with community members and elected officials to draw attention to the bill’s importance.
Frustrated by the serious lack of safety protections for young people, the MassCOSH peer leaders worked with Senator John Hart and Senator Patricia Jehlen to file a bill strengthening the enforcement authority of the Attorney General. The bill would enable the AG to fine employers who violate the Child Labor Laws through a civil process. The bill also requires that teens working after 8:00 PM be provided with adult supervision on site.
For their efforts, the MassCOSH peer leaders, along with the Youth from Girls Inc. Career Path Program were honored for their efforts to protect young workers at the North Shore Labor Council’s Annual Dinner last week.
“I don’t want to hear about another teen life being taken away when the situation could have been prevented,” said Raquel Lamons, a 14-year-old Teens Lead at Work peer leader. “We want young people to be safe when they work.”


“I thought this was all grown-up business, I didn’t know we could actually pass a bill,” said Kamaya Ray from Lynn’s Girl’s Inc. Belkys Perez added “I feel empowered, in charge, I don’t feel like they look at us like we are just kids to them – but that we actually matter.”
Sounds like the type of program we should be promoting in every community.