Workers Memorial Day: "Pray for the Dead, Fight Like Hell for the Living"

Every year on April 28 – the date when the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) was formed – the AFL-CIO and affiliated unions such as AFSCME observe Workers Memorial Day to honor workers killed or injured on the job.

Council 4 held its remembrance on April 26, in front of our AFSCME Workers Memorial Monument, which lists Council 4 member who have died on the job.

Michael Fitts of the Connecticut Council on Occupational Safety and Health joined Council 4 Executive Director Jody Barr in a call to protect workers and hold employers accountable.

“The names on our memorial were real people,” Barr noted. “They were fathers and mothers, sons and daughters. It’s our duty to remember them as people and carry forward their legacies.”

Later that day the Connecticut AFL-CIO honored Connecticut workers who lost their lives on the job during its annual Workers Memorial Day Ceremony at Bushnell Park in Hartford, home to a permanent workers memorial.

Recent data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that 35 workers were killed from work-related injuries in Connecticut in 2017, while an additional 37,600 workers suffered on-the-job injuries or illnesses.

Under the Trump administration, OSHA enforcement has been weakened and the number of OSHA inspectors is at its lowest level since the 1970s. As of 2017, Connecticut had 17 OSHA inspectors – 2 fewer than the previous year, or a 10% reduction. It would take the 17 OSHA inspectors over 180 years to inspect each workplace just once.

“The low number of OSHA inspectors and the resultant decline in enforcement activity has a real impact on worker safety,” wrote Deborah Berkowitz of the National Employment Law Project (NELP). “[The Trump administration] is scaling back OSHA enforcement activity, putting workers’ lives at risk and undercutting businesses that play by the rules and prioritize worker safety.”

AFSCME members are public service workers who make their communities better every single day. Many of them, too, put their lives on the line – not just law enforcement officers and corrections officers, but also transportation maintenance workers, sewage treatment plant workers, child protection investigators, sanitation workers and more.

As we honor workers killed or injured on the job, let’s not forget that we have what it takes to make workplaces safer and healthier. OSHA, at the federal and state levels, has a history of success in making it happen.

We can do more for worker safety. Now let’s demand it from our elected leaders.

As Connecticut AFL-CIO President Sal Luciano remarked, "Let’s mourn for the dead, and continue to fight like hell for the living."

To learn more, check out the AFL-CIO’s 2019 edition of “Death on the Job: The Toll of Neglect” here: