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Workers Memorial Day Highlights Need for Workplace Safety


In hundreds of ceremonies across the country, union activists highlighted the importance of workplace safety and the need to preserve and enact policies to promote it.

Like many important worker rights’ programs, workplace safety has come under attack. Despite a spate of highly public accidents over the past few years in sectors as diverse as oil exploration and coal mining, special interest groups are seeking to roll back important protections and rights.

Workers Memorial Day, which is held annually on April 28, gave union members a platform to highlight this vitally important issue. Citing the fact that some 4,500 workers lost their lives on the job in 2010, David Michael, director of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, made this obvious point: “Making a living shouldn’t include dying.”

Four decades ago, a Democratic-led Congress passed and President Richard Nixon (a Republican) signed the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) into law. In addition to being one of Nixon’s most important domestic legacies, OSHA has had a transformative effect on workplace safety. But, much more needs to be done.

As AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka noted, “It is horrifying that too many companies are willing to cut corners and sacrifice working Americans’ safety for the sake of increased profits. And that too many politicians are unwilling to support strong enforceable safety and health rules like the OSHA silica rule currently languishing. It’s a disgrace and a dishonor to the millions who have perished, been disabled or made ill while working hard to provide for their families and to serve our communities.”

On May 2, the AFL-CIO will release its annual “Death on the Job” report on the state of safety for the nation’s workers. It will include a state-by-state look at job deaths and injuries, a demographic breakdown of workers killed and hurt on the job, an in-depth look at job safety enforcement and more.


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