Yesterday in Washington, D.C., AFL-CIO President John Sweeney joined members of Congress and injured workers at a Capitol Hill press conference to highlight the need for stronger health and safety protections in the workplace.
Congressional representatives on-hand at the conference included Democratic Sens. Edward Kennedy of Mass., Hillary Clinton of N.Y., Joe Lieberman of Conn., Tom Harkin of Iowa, Paul Wellstone, of Minn., as well as Democratic Reps. George Miller of Calif., and Major Owens of N.Y.
"More than 1.8 million American workers each year report serious work-related injuries and 600,000 of those workers have to take time off to recover from these injuries," said Harkin. "They''re our cashiers, our nurses, cleaning staff, assembly workers in manufacturing and processing plants, computer users, clerical staff, truck drivers and meat cutters. But this administration can prevent these injuries by issuing a new standard."
At the press conference, Sweeney released a formal petition signed by leaders of unions, occupational safety and public health groups, as well as civil rights, religious and women''s organizations requesting that the Department of Labor issue a new standard on ergonomics hazards to protect workers.
"There is an urgent need for a new standard," said Sweeney. "An estimated 190,000 workers have suffered from job-related repetitive stress injuries since March 20, when President Bush signed legislation that killed the ergonomics standard that had been 10 years in the making. That''s about 5,000 injuries every day."
Immediately following the press conference, injured workers delivered the petition to Labor Secretary Chao.
Kennedy and Miller, ranking members of the Senate and House committees that oversee worker safety and health issues, also sent a letter to Chao demanding immediate action on the development of a new standard.
Today, officials from AFL-CIO, injured workers and Chao are scheduled to testify before the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, HHS and Education on the need for a new standard.
"Workers will continue to pay a high price for the delay in the development of workplace safety rules," said Sweeney. "Given the urgency, scope and seriousness of the problem of work-related repetitive stress injuries, we demand that the Bush administration make this matter a high priority."
by Virginia Sutcliffe