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We need a worker Memorial Day nationally

“Pray for the dead and fight like hell for the living.” Mother Jones.

We remember those we have lost.

Every year more people are killed at work than in wars. Most don’t die of mystery ailments, or in tragic “accidents”. They die because an employer decided their safety just wasn’t that important a priority. Worker’s Memorial Day (WMD) commemorates those workers.

Workers’ Memorial Day is held on Apr. 28 every year. This year, the unions of the AFL-CIO will observe WMD to remember those who have suffered and died on the job, and to renew the fight for safe jobs. This year we will come together to call for action on hazards that cause unnecessary injury, illness and death. We will stand united against the ongoing attacks on worker’s rights and protections, and demand that elected officials put working people’s well-being above corporate interests. We will fight for the right of every worker to a safe job until that promise is fulfilled. This is the centerpiece of Worker’s Memorial Day.

This year we are all working in unique circumstances, as the coronavirus pandemic affects every worker regardless of sector or locality. Hundreds have lost their lives to the virus while working on the frontline, acting to protect the public and to keep society running. Workers are risking their lives every day, attending work ill-equipped and without necessary safety measures in place. We could not have a starker reminder of the important role of trade union health and safety representatives in saving and protecting worker’s lives. The spread and impact of the COVID-19 outbreak in the United States is constantly developing and could last for a long time.

Congress passed the Occupational Safety and Health Act in 1970 and the Mine Safety and Health Act in 1977, promising every worker the right to a safe job. Organized Labor around the world and their allies have fought hard since then to make that promise a reality, winning protections that have made jobs safer and in turn saved lives. But, our work is not done. Each year, thousands of workers are killed and millions more suffer injury or illness because of their jobs.

Corporate interests have taken over safety agencies under the current administration. Not only has progress stalled, but the administration has weakened or repealed key protections that keep us safe at work and slashed safety agency budgets and staff. Now, there has been no action to protect workers from infectious diseases like COVID-19, heat illness, silica in mining and exposure to toxic chemicals. The number of workplace safety inspectors has never been lower.

The labor movement and allies have fought back to block some of these attacks. We won permanent compensation for those made ill by the 9/11 attacks and we are fighting for laws that would protect workers from preventable workplace violence, heat illness, asbestos exposures and the COVID-19 pandemic sweeping through our workplaces.

To honor workers, the U.P. RLF will have a virtual WMD event on April 28th at 7:00 pm. To join in on the event, go to https://aflcio.zoom.us/j/93894561941 or connect by telephone at 816-423-4261 conference code 896321.

For more information contact Michael Thibault, President of the U.P. Regional Labor Federation at 906-458-0621.

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