Friday, April 14, 2006

Mourn for the Dead. Fight for the Living. Workers Memorial Day is April 28.

Workers Memorial Day

Within just a few weeks’ time at the start of 2006, the disasters at the Sago mine and five other mines claimed the lives of 18 miners. These tragedies focused the nation’s attention on the dangers faced by workers and the weaknesses in job safety protections. But the Sago disaster was not an isolated event. Before this year is over, thousands more workers will be killed on the job and millions will be injured or diseased.

[see pdf. report, Death on the Job]

More than three decades ago, Congress passed the Occupational Safety and Health Act and the Mine Safety and Health Act, promising every worker the right to a safe job. Unions and our allies have fought hard to make that promise a reality, winning protections that have saved hundreds of thousand of lives. But the fight for safe jobs has gotten harder as corporate interests, joined by the Bush administration and conservative Republicans, have moved to roll back and weaken protections.

Since 2001 the administration has blocked or withdrawn dozens of important safety rules, including a number of measures that may have prevented the recent mine tragedies. Voluntary compliance has been favored over issuing new protective standards and enforcement. Industry officials have been put in charge of government safety programs.

In Congress, Republican leaders have ignored calls to strengthen the mine safety law, and instead are pushing legislation that would gut OSHA enforcement.
And many employers, in a race to the bottom in a global economy, are looking to cut wages and benefits and loosen protections. With fewer and fewer workers having the protection of a union, more workers are afraid to speak out and raise job safety concerns, fearing retaliation and firing.

On April 28, the unions of the AFL-CIO observe Workers Memorial Day to remember those who have suffered and died on the job and to renew the fight for safe workplaces. We will fight to improve the mine safety law and protections for all workers. We will fight to make workers’ issues a priority and to keep and create good jobs in this country. We will fight for the freedom of workers to form unions and, through their unions, to speak out and bargain for safe jobs, respect and a better future. We will keep fighting until the promise of safe jobs for all workers is a reality.

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