WORKERS’ MEMORIAL DAY 2020
The 28th of April marks Workers’ Memorial Day, a day chosen to commemorate dedicated workers killed and injured while on the job. This year is especially poignant as we remember a devastating number of workers who lost their lives due to exposure to Coronavirus in the workplace. As this pandemic continually threatens our livelihoods and well-being, we are reminded of how critical it is to continue to fight to guarantee all workers the right to a safe and healthy workplace.
Tragically, even before COVID-19, the past five years have revealed a disturbing increase in worker deaths. In 2018 alone, 5,250 workers – one worker every 100 minutes – died while working on the job. Tens of thousands more died from chronic illnesses caused by exposure to toxic substances in the workplace. Millions more suffered on-the-job injuries. Although we will not have data on 2020 worker deaths until late 2021, the death toll is expected to be much higher as a result of COVID-19, even with so many individual workers either out of work or working from home. It is predicted that COVID-19 deaths will be undercounted because of OSHA’s recent Coronavirus guidelines excusing employers from recording COVID-19 cases among their employees. This will inevitably guarantee underreporting of total work-related illnesses/injuries and deaths.
Fifty years ago, on December 29th, 1970, the Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) Act was signed into law, ensuring every worker in the U.S. “safe and healthful working conditions.” Worker deaths were not eliminated entirely, but there was a markedly significant decline. The current administration, Department of Labor, and Congress have taken no meaningful action to address workplace safety, nor taken any relevant steps to ensure workers are provided with basic PPE, such as gloves and masks. The administration appears to view workers as expendable due to the continued deferment of leadership to employers. According to the AFL-CIO’s 2019 “Death on the Job Report”, the federal government spends billions on tax breaks and subsidies to major corporations, while OSHA spends a mere $3.69 on each worker’s safety.
Workers’ Memorial Day will continue to shed light on a critical situation. Essential workers such as nurses, doctors, bus drivers, bank tellers, janitors, grocery store employees, postal service workers, farmworkers, airline workers and thousands of others risk their lives every day, and our current crisis is a heavy reminder that these and other workers deserve a healthy and safe working environment.
In observance of this momentous day, we join with Workers and Unions around the world to “remember the dead – fight for the living.” Today, we mourn the loss of friends, family, and neighbors who lost their lives on the job, and it is during this time we vow to do better.
We are asking for your help to remember all the union members and workers who have died of COVID-19 and other accidents, especially those within our Local. We would also ask that you too take a moment during this day to reflect on those we’ve lost to injuries or illnesses on the job, and how we can honor those workers by working together to avert needless preventable deaths.
2020 Workers Memorial Day.pdf