Workers and Communities Worldwide Call For Safer Jobs on
15th Annual Observance of Workers Memorial Day
State-by-State Numbers on Job Deaths and Injuries Included in New Report
(April 24, Washington) – With events taking place across the country, thousands of working Americans will hold candlelight vigils and rallies to commemorate the victims of workplace injuries, diseases, and fatal catastrophes on April 28th for the 15th annual Workers Memorial Day.
Under the banner “Safe Jobs: Keep on Fighting,” workers, unions, community leaders, and religious leaders will come together in locales ranging from local parks to community churches to stress the need for stronger safety and health laws.
The 2003 AFL-CIO study entitled “Death on the Job: The Toll of Neglect; a State-by-State Profile of Worker Safety and Health in the United States” shows that although workplace safety and health is improving overall, fatalities among Latino workers continue to dramatically escalate. Alaska, Wyoming, and Montana had the highest fatality rates while Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Vermont had the lowest. Nationally, it would take federal OSHA 80 years to inspect all the workplaces under its jurisdiction just once.
“Employers must stop exploiting workers and improve workplace safety, and the government must do more to hold employers accountable,” says AFL-CIO President John Sweeney.
Workers nationwide are forming unions because they want to improve their health and safety conditions on the job. For example at a Smithfield meat processing plant in North Carolina, workers say they are routinely fired for being injured, denied workers’ compensation for work related injuries, and many have endured amputations and carpal tunnel syndrome due to unsafe conditions. Workers are seeking to improve job safety by forming a union with United Food and Commercial Workers.
Cintas laundry workers are forming a union with the Union of Needletrades, Industrial and Textile Employees (UNITE) to improve their safety conditions. Cintas Corporation is the largest uniform supplier and commercial laundry in North America with
27,000 employees. Yet, since 1980, OSHA inspectors have cited Cintas for nearly 100
violations of critical health and safety standards. The violations include the failure to provide chemical hazard training and the failure to protect workers from hazardous equipment.
The Bush Administration has done little to curb unsafe working conditions. For example, the Administration repealed the “ergonomics” standard -- a standard which was 10 years in the making -- which would have protected workers from injury caused by repetitive motion, heavy lifting and poorly designed work. The Administration’s decision hurts as many as 1.8 million workers a year.
While more funding is needed, OSHA has been successful in improving workplace safety. In fact, 271,704 people can now say their lives have been saved since the passage of the OSHA Act in 1970, which was a law union members were central in passing.
Some of the cities across the country holding large events are Los Angeles, CA; Washington, DC; Chicago, IL; Detroit, MI; Atlantic City, NJ; Duluth, MN; New York, NY; Columbus, OH; Pittsburgh, PA; Nashville, TN and Milwaukee, WI. Internationally there will be events in Australia, Belgium, and the United Kingdom among others.
Fifty-nine hundred (5,900) workers died from on-the-job injuries in 2001 not including Sept. 11, with over 5.2 million workers facing injury or illness on the job. To inspect every workplace nationwide only once would take 80 years.
The first Workers’ Memorial Day was commemorated in 1989. April 28th represents the anniversary of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
For advance copies of the AFL-CIO’s study “Death on the Job: The Toll of Neglect; a State-by-State Profile on Worker Safety and Health in the United States,” contact Bernard Pollack at 202-637-5018.