Workers Memorial Day: A Call for Safety on the Job

Close to 100 community, faith, and labor leaders gathered together yesterday to honor workers who have passed and those who work under dangerous conditions as a tribute to Workers Memorial Day.  Construction workers, plumbers, room attendants, and others told their stories and shared the realities they face every day of dangers on the job.   From having to lift heavy mattresses to being exposed to hazardous chemicals, workers today continue to face hazardous situations that can be addressed if employers want to.

“A lot of people think that when someone is hurt at work, it’s just an accident that couldn’t be avoided,” said Maria Noel Fernandez, lead organizer for Working Partnerships USA, which coordinated the Workers Memorial Day tribute. “But we know that when workers are hurt on the job it’s often because employers could have taken better safety precautions or provided better training.”

A procession of supporters marched from Downtown San Jose’s Cesar Chavez Plaza to City Hall where several people spoke in honor of the observance.

The Consul General of Mexico, Carlos Ponce Martinez,  spoke about the impact specifically on Latino and  undocumented workers, who suffer a higher rate of injury on the job.

Business Manager of Plumbers Local 393, Bill Meyer,described the weeks of heartbreaking lung treatments of a colleague who was exposed to hazardous chemicals on the job as a plumber.

Despite the vast improvements in workplace safety that have taken place in recent decades, every day, an average of twelve U.S. workers die on the job – doing routine construction, electrical, plumbing, farm and other everyday work.

While strong public policies are critical to improving health and safety for workers, there is no greater safety mechanism than a worker’s ability to bargain collectively. Workers can identify problems and work with management to improve situations at their jobs.   It is what changed working conditions in the early 1900’s and it’s what will continue to protect workers today and in the future.

See a slide show of the event here.

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