Each year more than 60,000 workers die from job injuries and illnesses and another 6 million are injured. The unions of the AFL-CIO plan to remember these workers on April 28, Workers'' Memorial Day.
The first Workers'' Memorial Day was observed in 1989. April 28 was chosen because it is the anniversary of the founding Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the day of a similar remembrance in Canada. Every year, people in hundreds of communities and at worksites across the country and Canada recognize workers who have been killed or injured on the job. Union members around the world now mark April 28 as an International Day of Mourning.
On this Workers'' Memorial Day, the AFL-CIO says it will demand "a strong ergonomics standard, stronger enforcement of the law and protections from known workplace hazards and from new safety and security threats, adding it wants "OSHA coverage for all workers and the freedom of workers to organize, and through their unions, speak out and bargain for safe jobs, respect and a better future."
According to the union, this Workers'' Memorial Day has special significance, with the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks claiming the lives of more than 3,000 people, some 600 of them union members. Most of those who died were at their jobs when the attacks occurred, including the heroic firefighters and rescuers who died while trying to save the lives of others.
"These terrorist attacks have put a new set of safety and health issues front and center. While we address these new threats, we must continue to press for protections against long-recognized hazards," says a statement from the AFL-CIO.
The union offers these suggestions to commemorate the day:
- Hold a candlelight vigil, memorial service or moment of silence to remember those who have died on the job and to highlight job safety problems in your community and at your workplace.
- Organize a rally to highlight the job safety and health problems in your community or at your workplace and how the union is fighting to improve protections.
- Create a memorial at workplaces or in communities where workers have been killed on the job.
- Distribute workplace fliers and organize a call-in to congressional representatives during lunchtimes or break times. Tell your representatives to support stronger OSHA, MSHA and worker safety and health protections.
- Organize petition and letter-writing campaigns to urge the Bush administration and Congress to issue a new ergonomics standard to protect workers from crippling injuries. Petitions and sample letters are available from the AFL-CIO.
- Hold a public meeting with congressional representatives in their home districts. Bring injured workers and family members who can talk firsthand about the need for strong safety and health protections. Invite local religious leaders and other allies to participate in the meeting.
- Write a letter to the editor of your local paper. Talk to reporters you know and encourage them to write a story about how the threat to job safety protections endangers workers in your community.
For additional information visit the AFL-CIO''s Web site at www.aflcio.org/safety/wmd_materials.htm. To order materials such as posters and flyers, contact the AFL-CIO Department of Safety and Health, 815 16th St., N.W., Washington, D.C. 20006; phone: (202) 637-5366; fax: (202) 508-6978; e-mail: [email protected]
by Sandy Smith ([email protected])