May 1, 2014
This Workers Memorial Day, CWAers across the country joined union and safety and health activists in commemorating those workers who have been injured, made sick or killed on the job.
We mourned the dead, offered prayers and vigils, and pledged to "fight for the living" by continuing to work for safer, healthier workplaces.
Houston activists from 13 unions, community groups, faith leaders and others mark Workers Memorial Day at CWA Local 6222.
Below: Members of CWA Local 9400 show their support for Workers Memorial Day by wearing Safe Jobs Save Lives stickers.
Elected officials including State Senator Sylvia Garcia and representatives from Rep. Al Green and candidate-for-governor Wendy Davis also attended, along with UNIVISION, Telemundo and KPFT media.
First the first time in two years, members of D9 Locals were able to wear Safe Jobs Save Lives stickers. Two years ago, workers were told "to take the stickers off or no work for you today," but a decision by an NLRB administrative law judge threw out that management rule. (See this story.)
Members of CWA Locals 4900 laid flowers at the Indiana statehouse, where there was a reading of the names of the 203 Indiana workers who lost their lives last year. CWA Local 1103 joined the Westchester/Putnam Central Labor Body vigil in White Plains, NY.
CWA members stood with LIUNA and IBEW workers at the annual Workers Memorial Mass, also known as the blessing of the hard hats, at St. Patrick's Catholic Church in Long Island, NY. Check out this Newsday video of the event.
Workers Memorial Day falls on April 28, the day in 1971 that the federal government established the Occupational Safety & Health Administration. But decades later, it's important to remember that we have a great deal of work to do to prevent workplace injuries, illnesses and deaths. Some employers continue to cut corners and violate the law. We have workplace exposure standards for only a small fraction of chemicals used on the job, and so-called "silent killers" like silica dust and asbestos are responsible for worker deaths every year.
For CWA telecom members, electrocution, heat stress and confined spaces are real dangers. Health care and university workers must deal with exposure to chemicals and other toxic substances. Ergonomic injuries, now not covered by OSHA, are real.
"We must never accept that injury, illness, or death is the cost of doing business," said President Obama. "Workers are the backbone of our economy, and no one's prosperity should come at the expense of their safety. Today, let us celebrate our workers by upholding their basic right to clock out and return home at the end of each shift."
As recently as 2012, a total of 4,383 U.S. workers died from work-related injuries, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Though most fatalities from work-related illness are not captured by national surveillance systems, an estimated 53,445 workers died in 2007.
Women are especially affected by lack of health and safety regulations. Check out RadioLabour's special report on health and safety at www.radiolabour.net.