Many of us haven’t given much thought to the fact that April 28, this weekend, is Workers Memorial Day.
Why should people busy grocery shopping, taking care of kids or just enjoying the spring stop to bother with yet another day of remembrance this weekend? After all, many of us might say, there are lots of other important things happening.
Here are just a few reasons why we should be concerned about Workers Memorial Day:
*A baggage handler was ejected from a faulty baggage cart when it tipped over and he was killed. After resisting for two years, Delta Airlines has just agreed to pay an $8,500 fine for causing the death of one of its employees two years ago. His life, someone has just decided, was apparently worth only $8,500.
*A man worked as a sandblaster all through his 20s. By his early 30s he started getting short of breath. At the age of 34, he opened the door to his house and fell to the floor crying as his wife and 13-year-old son watched. “I can’t do it anymore,” he told them. The diagnosis was silicosis. The microscopic sand particles that had filled the air sacs in his lungs caused him to die by suffocation. This sad story was just recounted to a panel of U.S. senators by the man’s son.
(The first pamphlets and videos warning about silicosis came out in the 1930’s when Frances Perkins was Secretary of Labor. In 2012 the disease is still killing people on the job.)
*DIRERCTV doesn’t always bother providing proper harnesses or safety gear so a young father of two who installs satellites for the company fell more than eight feet off a ladder during an installation.
*A woman at a recycling plant is pricked by a poisoned needle. She dies from the poisoning and infection that result.
A report by independent federal auditors, released April 19, shows obstructions thrown up against new federal job safety standards are worse than those in other areas of federal regulation.
Although deaths on the job have declined dramatically since the Occupational Safety and Health Act was enacted 42 years ago, its fines are too small to matter, its enforcement can be delayed by appeals, and businesses often get too much time to obey. And no one is ever convicted or jailed for a felony when a worker dies. Business opposition and Republican control of the Labor Dept. before President Barack Obama was elected have made things worse.
Workers Memorial Day is a day that we should get out there and express our anger and our outrage, compassion and condolences, over the lives of our brothers and sisters still being cut short by greed-motivated profiteers.
Workers Memorial Day is a day to educate ourselves and our co-workers about our rights to safety on the job.
Yes, Workers Memorial Day is a time to remember the dead, but even more important, however, it is a time to resolve that we will fight for the living. Click here for the location of the Workers Memorial Day event closest to you.
Photo: Two OSHA officials and an NYPD officer stand by a construction site where two workers died on Manhattan’s Upper West Side. Richard Drew/AP