Over a decade ago, EHC began collaborating with Hesperian Health Guides on a health handbook for factory workers. At the time, the general consensus was that job safety and health pertained only to physical problems caused by machines or chemicals at work, like getting shocked by frayed electric cords or breathing fumes.

But EHC and Hesperian Health incorporated a comprehensive understanding of health that included workplace violence, discrimination and gender issues, basic healthcare access, pollution from factories and the link between healthy workplaces and healthy neighborhoods. EHC even gathered direct and specific feedback on the materials from workers. Pictured below is a border event organized by EHC to review early drafts of Workers’ Guide to Health and Safety.

hesperian border event

Workers’ Guide to Health and Safety was published on May 1st of this year, “a long process but with a great result,” as Martha Ojeda, EHC partner and director of the Fe y Justicia Center said, and “a powerful tool for all workers worldwide.” Martha was one of Hesperian’s earliest partners, helping lead an extensive community validation and field-testing process with women workers on the border.

The field-test led to the creation of a section called “Beyond the factory walls.” The chapter on pollution discusses how work hazards may be experienced in the surrounding community, not just during work. This was most clearly visible with chemical hazards. But of course, workers shared much more about their lives and struggles. Their stories of organizing are told throughout the book.

Workers’ Guide offers workers and their supporters the practical tools they need to take action for their health at work. It expands the notion of “workplace health” to include the social and political determinants of health, from problems like low wages and harassment, to mental health and safe water. Workers go home to their families after work, so Workers’ Guide includes the problems of pollution, substandard housing and services, and other “social hazards” that affect so many workers.

magdalena hesperian

Pictured left is Magdalena Cerda, EHC’s Campaign Director – Border Environmental Justice, holding the Spanish draft of Workers’ Guide. Magdalena led field-testing with women maquiladora workers. EHC is proud to have helped build this book and we are excited to continue to collaborate with Hesperian to get this material in the languages of the people we serve and in the hands of those that will use it to improve their lives.

How to read and use this book:

  • Download free chapters  
  • Buy a book 
  • Send a book to a workers center 
  • Help us raise funds to develop the Spanish edition of Workers’ Guide
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In 2005, we worked with community members in Old Town National City to orchestrate the Westside Specific Plan; the community's vision for a vibrant and toxic-free neighborhood. The plan noted the importance of affordable housing units that didn't damage National City’s Paradise Creek, replaced polluted grounds with a healthy community park and was within walking distance of a trolley station.

paradise creek national city

After ten years, the community’s vision has become a reality. Today, if you walk by the 24th blue line trolley station on 22nd street, you will see people cleaning toxic soil in preparation for the construction of Paradise Creek Apartment Homes- 201 brand-new affordable housing units, developed by Community Housing Works and Related California, predicted to look like the image below. Construction begins in 2015 and plans to finish by 2017.

Paradise Creek Apartments

This project, spearheaded by the community voice, has received recognition across the country, receiving a national award from the Environmental Protection Agency, Department of Transportation and the Department of Housing and Urban Development. The innovative and visionary development has uplifted communities nationwide to use toxic pollution and a lack of transportation justice into opportunities to build better communities and #healthyhoods. We commend National City for prioritizing land use for and committing resources to the Paradise Creek Apartment Homes to help make this community vision a reality.The people of Old Town National City have made history and continue to inspire others to do the same.

Old Town National City is making history. For decades, residents have struggled with pollution from local auto body shops operating too close to homes and schools. Children’s emergency room visits for asthma have become disproportionately high in the neighborhood, nearly doubling the county average in 2012. In 2010, the people of National City united to guide the Westside Specific Plan; Old Town National City’s plan for a future of healthy communities.

Auto body shops, while often too close to homes, parks and schools, provide well paying jobs for the neighborhood and stimulate the local economy. With an innovative approach and commitment to healthy neighborhoods,  a win-win situation was born.

The idea is a designated area, away from residential areas, where autobody shops can continue local operations while minimizing pollution in the neighborhood. This “small business incubator” is known as a Green Industrial Auto Park and it turns empty, unused land into sustainable areas for auto body shops to flourish.


With a grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, EHC worked with Estolano LeSar Perez Advisors to conduct a yearlong study analyzing whether a Green Industrial Auto Body Park in National City was possible. The study considered perspectives from landowners, business owners and residents as well as investigated brownfield sites and researched private and public funding sources.


What did the study show? It showed that a Green Industrial Auto Park was wholly feasible for National City.

Beaming with excitement, we presented the findings to the City Council in National City on May 19, 2015, where Council directed City staff to return with recommendations for next steps.

Policy advocate Carolina Martinez said, “Auto body shops are important to the local economy, but right now they’re too close to our homes and schools. This study shows we can group auto shops together in an environmentally conscious park to reduce harmful health impacts on residents. It shows National City can lead with bold solutions for both community health and local economic growth. It’s a creative win-win for everyone.”

Old Town National City residents continue to inspire us with their commitment to making their community a healthier place to live. This solution brings us one step closer to making history and fulfilling National City’s vision for both a healthy neighborhood and a thriving economy.

To read the study and learn more about Old Town National City, please click here

If you want to know what is happening in your community and how you can get involved, you’re not alone. Dozens of residents show up at our community meetings each month to learn about making a positive difference in their neighborhoods. Read below and join us at the next meeting in your community.

City Heights CAT 3

What are community meetings?

A few times a month we goes into our core communities (Barrio Logan, National City, Sherman Heights and City Heights) to speak directly to residents about the issues affecting their neighborhood, the region that we live in and their families. Often we give a brief presentation and answer questions about hot community topics such as climate change, air pollution and transportation justice. We typically hold these meetings in the evening and provide dinner, childcare and translation for English, Spanish and Vietnamese.

Why do community meetings matter?

Community meetings bring together residents who want to improve their neighborhoods, build a better future for themselves and their children and join a movement. We hope to empower neighborhoods and unite communities to form a strong, persistent and informed voice that speaks up for environmental health issues and pushes for victories that make real change.

City Heights CAT 4

Who can go to community meetings?

Anyone who wants to improve the quality of life in his or her neighborhood or learn more about their neighborhood and the health of their family can go to community meetings.

When are community meetings?

The schedule changes every month. Check our Facebook or sign up to get our monthly newsletter for meeting notifications. You can also contact Franco for more information at (619) 474-0220 ext, 164 or Esta dirección de correo electrónico está siendo protegida contra los robots de spam. Necesita tener JavaScript habilitado para poder verlo..

Do I need to buy a ticket or RSVP?

No. Just show up. 

Can I bring my kids?

Absolutely. We even have childcare available at the meetings so they won’t be bored.

What else do I need to know?

We want you to be there. You don’t need to know, bring or do anything besides an open mind and an eagerness to learn and get involved in creating #healthyhoods.

Please join us at a community meeting! Follow us on Facebook and Twitter to find out about the next meeting in your neighborhood.

Do you live near the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Freeway (SR-94) or commute to downtown San Diego from the South Bay? Then you're probably tired of sitting in traffic, breathing polluted air and living trapped in so few safe and affordable transportation options. 

This doesn't have to be our reality. San Diego has the opportunity to improve public transit, walking paths and biking options to positively impact our air quality, health and commutes. 

94 example freeway structureThe San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG) has proposed plans that make things worse along the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Freeway, suggesting spending $500-600 million to widen the freeway with an elevated ramp (similair to the one pictured to the right) that would accommodate transit systems and high-occupancy vehicles.

Unforrtunately, SANDAG’s proposal for the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Freeway negatively impacts communities in several ways.

There are more efficient, effective and healthy options available. EHC works with residents to ensure funds spent on the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Freeway corridor go toward:

  • Improving transit, walking and biking safety and benefits for the region and for communities near the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Freeway
  • Reducing air pollution caused by surrounding freeway traffic

Will you join us? You can make a huge difference as a voice for your community. Contact Esta dirección de correo electrónico está siendo protegida contra los robots de spam. Necesita tener JavaScript habilitado para poder verlo. to get information and get involved.