Every year on April 28th, we take the time to honor workers who have lost their lives on the job and renew our commitment to fighting for every worker’s right to a safe, fair-paying job.
In the past we have won new protections for workers. When mine workers struggled with exposure to silica dust and beryllium, damaging their lungs and leading to cancer, we won new rules to limit exposure for mine workers and protect them from retaliation after reporting injuries and illness from job conditions.
To be effective, the regulations must be followed. According to the U.S. Department of Labor and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, 45 New Jersey workers lost their lives last year due to falls and equipment incidents. One life lost on the job is one too many. We need strong worksite safety rules and enforcement to ensure working families are safe.
With the current climate in D.C., it looks like the problem will get worse. The Trump administration is committed to cutting regulations and Congress has already started rolling back workplace rules meant to prevent illness, injury, and death. In March, the House of Representatives passed a resolution to prevent OSHA from requiring employers to track the number of workers injured or killed at worksites. They claim that OSHA rules and regulations hurt companies’ bottom lines, but lax safety regulations hurts the hard-working men and women in those companies far more.
The current conditions are already harming our union brothers and sisters that work for the public good and ensure our air, water, roads, and communities are safe. Gag orders on public employees and constant surveillance are management practices that make a hostile environment reminiscent of sweatshops. Creating a culture of fear and retaliation inhibits the men and women who help our government function.
This day is a reminder to call your representatives and demand that they put the well-being of your union brother or sister – of every worker – above the interests of corporations and their bottom line. We must remember the tolls of job injuries and deaths and bring it to their attention. It is time to put people above profits and defend the right of every worker to a safe, healthy, fair-paying job. As Mother Mary Jones said, we must “mourn for the dead, but fight like hell for the living!”