Every year 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 our efforts for safe workplaces. This year the struggle continues to create good jobs in this country that are safe and healthy and pay fair wages and to ensure the freedom of workers to form unions and, through their unions, to speak out and bargain for respect and a better future. It’s time for our country to fulfill the promise of safe jobs for all.
Four decades ago, Congress passed the Occupational 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 made jobs safer, saved hundreds of thousands of lives and prevented millions of workplace injuries and illnesses.
But our work is not done. Many job hazards are unregulated and uncontrolled. Some employers cut corners and violate the law, putting workers in serious danger and costing lives. Workers who report job hazards or job injuries are fired or disciplined. Employers contract out dangerous work to try to avoid responsibility. As a result, each year thousands of workers are killed and millions more injured or diseased because of their jobs.
The Obama administration has strengthened safety and health protections through tougher enforcement and expanded workers’ rights. New safeguards on silica and other workplace hazards have been proposed and are close to being finalized. But this progress is threatened by business groups and the Republicans who now control Congress. They are trying to stop these protections and shut down all future regulations.
We cannot let them succeed – workers’ lives are at stake.