Northwest Forest Worker Center/Promotora Program

Northwest Forest Worker Center/Promotora Program

Lomakatsi Promotoras (from left to right) Ana Maria Alvarez, Martha Valle Hernandez and Gladis Garcia provide a training to forest workers in the Ashland Watershed.

For over 20 years, the Medford-based non-profit Northwest Forest Worker Center has served hundreds of Rogue Valley forest workers with resources and counsel around safety and workplace rights. Now, the Center’s legacy will continue on as a program of Ashland-based non-profit Lomakatsi Restoration Project.

The Rogue Valley is home to one of the most active forestry and wildfire protection services industries in the country. Dozens of forestry companies employ hundreds of workers on a daily basis, who work on public and provide lands across Southern Oregon and beyond, reducing hazardous fuel loads to reduce the risk of severe wildfire.

This important work often comes at a cost—forest workers are at high risk of injury and are 9 times more likely to be killed on the job than the average Oregon worker. Unfortunately, despite the hazards, most contractors do not provide adequate safety training for their work crews. Additionally, forest workers are often paid less than a living wage, with few if any benefits.

The Center started the Promotora Program 10 years ago to provide forest workers with practical information they can use right away to keep themselves safe on the job. Their Promotoras de Salud (or Community Health Workers), have since met hundreds of forests workers around the community to deliver trainings and offer safety resources, primarily in Spanish.

In 2019, talks began between the Center and Lomakatsi around a merger to further mutual goals, pool resources, and take advantage of Lomakatsi’s capacity in administration, workforce training and communications. Lomakatsi was seen as a natural fit, as a longtime partner of the Center with a reputation for raising the bar around treatment of forest workers, and a foundational commitment to advancing diversity, equity and inclusion.

Lomakatsi Promotoras (from left to right) Gladis Garcia, Ana Maria Alvarez, and Martha Valle Hernandez (observing social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic).

Northwest Forest Worker Center/Promotora Program Under Lomakatsi

In June 2020, Lomakatsi hired on the two Promotoras previously employed by the Center—Gladis Garcia and Martha Valle Hernandez—to offer trainings and information around workplace health and safety and worker rights. They bring over a decade of combined experience working with the Latinx forest worker community around the Rogue Valley, and both have deep ties to the community. We’re pleased to also welcome Ana Maria Alvarez in the role of Promotora. Ana is an alumna of Lomakatsi’s youth program, and has experience volunteering with local organizations that support the Latinx community through social justice work.

Lomakatsi is excited to be able to continue the important work of the Northwest Forest Worker Center and the Promotora Program and give a voice to the hundreds of Latinx forest workers who work in the woods on a daily basis to reduce the risk of wildfire, enhance wildlife habitat, and make the Rogue Valley a safer place to live. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the Promotoras are focusing on additional safety trainings based around the protocols Lomakatsi developed for our own workforce.

The Northwest Forest Worker Center website will remain online for the time being to provide access to important health and safety resources. To learn more about the Center’s legacy and to view these resources, visit https://nwforestworkers.org/.

Lomakatsi Promotora Martha Valle Hernandez passes out her contact information to forest workers after a training, so they can contact her with questions or concerns.

Comments are closed.