Worker Voices: Fresno Residents on Health and Safety

Blog Post
Aug. 18, 2020

In early 2020, New America CA's research team conducted in-depth interviews with 35 Fresno County residents employed in regionally prevalent industries, whose lives could be upended by job change or loss, due to the changing nature of work or tech-related shifts. Most of those interviewed were already experiencing some level of economic precarity and the interviews spanned topics both personal and professional. The conversations underscored how critical workers' voices are to unlocking solutions for both the present and future of work. Below are some examples of what respondents shared on the topic of Health and Safety.

Read the executive summary brief here and the complete research findings here.

Gary has chronic pain from work-related injuries, but can't afford to get treatment or stop working

"I don't have health insurance. So it's just pushing through it. Sometimes, [my girlfriend's] family, they have like - what is it called? Like morphine pills or Norcos or something, I'll take like half of one and it will help me get through a shift."

For Joseph, health and safety concerns at work extend beyond hard labor and into sexual violence

“To move up within the company…what I’ve seen and I saw, you either have to—I'm using this for a lack of a better word—but you really have to be sucking something or dating somebody or flirting with somebody or finessing somebody in order to move up, and I am not going to do that. If my hard work is not going to prove to you that I could do this and keep doing it, then I don't want to be here, and I'm not going to do that.”

Conflict with his wife led to Peter losing a job he enjoyed

“Me and my wife got into a huge, huge fight and I ended up punching a wall and…the neighbors heard that hit and they thought that was me laying my hands on my wife…and they called the police and it was just a huge mess. They held me for a few days and my manager didn't know what was going on. No one was able to call him and tell him. So as soon as I got out, I went straight to thehospital [Peter's former workplace]. I called my manager and stuff, but it was already too late. I was gone from work for like three days, so he had to do what he had to do.”

Fresno's air quality is negatively impacting the health of Caroline's kids

"All three of my children have asthma. We get bad air quality days, it can be days that we try not to leave outside. There's days when my son misses school because of the air quality...There's days when we already have bad air quality days and then we get the burning of the trash and the recyclables or what have you, and it just sets a fog over Fresno, and the air is rancid, it's dense, it's bad. The air quality here is just bad, and it's bad for my kids. My son gets headaches. I've been told by my doctor I live in the worst area for my kids to have asthma. There's a possibility if we left the area, my kids wouldn't even have asthma.”

*Names have been changed for privacy

Follow the provided links for interviewee perceptions of Work and Income, Family, Post-Secondary Education, and Experiences of Fresno.