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On Workers Memorial Day—Honor the Dead, Fight for the Living

On Workers Memorial Day—Honor the Dead, Fight for the Living

Today, on Workers Memorial Day, working Americans are gathering to commemorate those who have lost their lives due to workplace-induced illnesses and injuries and to demand stronger safety protections on the job. Click here to find a Workers Memorial Day event near you.

In a statement, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said:

No worker should be exposed to fatal injuries and illnesses at work, yet every day 150 men and women die from a work injury or occupational disease. Their deaths remind us that Americans still—in 2015—face too many dangers at the workplace.

More than four decades ago, Congress passed the Occupational Safety and Health Act, promising every worker the right to a safe job. Unions and our allies have fought hard to make that promise a reality—winning protections that have made jobs safer, saved hundreds of thousands of lives and prevented millions of workplace injuries and illnesses.

Despite the progress in making workplaces safer and protecting workers, too many people continue to be exposed to serious safety hazards like toxic silica dust, infectious diseases and workplace violence.

One of the biggest roadblocks to improved worker safety and health protections has been Republican lawmakers and business groups blocking new safety standards, most recently a new silica standard and other job safety protections that will save workers’ lives. Said Trumka:

Too many hardworking people both in this country and around the world continue to be hurt or killed on the job. Today and every day, we must strive to achieve safe workplaces for every worker and demand that lawmakers create good jobs that ensure the dignity and safety every worker deserves.

He also pointed to two serious safety and health issues that made headlines earlier this year and that demonstrate the need for tough workplace health and safety standards.

In February, when the United Steelworkers (USW) were on strike to highlight the need for tighter safety regulations at refineries across the country, “an explosion at an ExxonMobil refinery in California injured four workers and shook neighborhoods for miles around, reinforcing the need for corporations to do more to address refinery safety.”

Trumka also singled out the work done by health care workers in the wake of the Ebola crisis, both abroad and at home. Hundreds of health care workers cared for the sick. But, he said:

Due to subpar protections offered by employers, many aid providers themselves fell ill with the disease. No one providing a service to the community should risk his or her life due to lack of effective protective gear.

Today, in town squares and union halls, at worksites and memorials, in community after community—workers and their allies are gathering to remember our brothers and sisters who have lost their lives and to fight for safe workplaces and for good jobs for all workers. Click here to find an event near you and join the fight for safe workplaces.

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