To the Editor:
Workers Memorial Day is held each year on April 28th to mourn workers killed and injured on the job. It is also the day that we rededicate ourselves to the fight to make our workplaces safer. We still have a long way to go.
In 2018, 5,200 workers were killed on the job. Another 50,000 to 60,000 workers died from occupational diseases. This is the fifth consecutive increase in annual workplace fatalities, and the third time more than 5,000 fatalities have been recorded by the Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries (CFOI) since 2008.
2.8 million non-fatal workplace injuries and illnesses were reported by private industry employers, and close to 700,000 injury and illness cases were reported among state and local government workers. Work injuries involving transportation incidents remained the most common fatal event in 2018, accounting for 40 percent (2,080).
The push for production, an influx of new workers as older, more experienced workers retire, reduced staffing levels, the growing use of subcontracting and outsourcing, mandatory overtime, and changes in technology and work processes all pose a threat to workers’ safety and health. Truck drivers, school bus drivers, distribution center workers, nurses, and numerous other occupations, routinely suffer from their employers’ drive to reduce costs and produce more. The current COVID-19 pandemic has exposed these hard truths and highlighted severe weaknesses in worker protections and health and safety rights afforded under the OSH Act of 1970.
The overall decline in the quality of jobs is unlike any we’ve seen in decades. The labor movement is fighting against this trend to ensure that all Americans have a safe job that allows them to support themselves and their families with health care coverage and secure retirement benefits. On April 28th, let’s remember that millions of American workers that struggle to support their families, too often being injured or killed in the process. It’s time to stand up and fight to make the promise of good, safe jobs a reality for all workers.