Guest Column: Workers Memorial Day is April 28

By Ron Welte

Let Them Always Be Remembered”

The Rockford United Labor organization, composed of AFL-CIO labor unions across the Winnebago-Boone County areas, will be holding its annual Workers Memorial Day on Saturday, April 28. This date is nationally recognized as Workers Memorial Day and is a day to remember workers who have been killed or injured on the job and to reinforce the critical need for strong safety and health protections at the workplace for all workers. This year’s theme is “Safe Jobs Save Lives — Keep the Promise Alive.”

Since 1989, Rockford United Labor CLC has honored those union members that have lost their lives performing their chosen occupation, and to give comfort to those they left behind. Their names are engraved on two plaques labeled “Let Them Always Be Remembered” that are housed at the Labor Temple on South First Street and will be on display at the ceremony April 28.

Four decades ago, the U.S. Congress passed legislation creating the Occupational Safety and Health Act that promised every worker the right to a safe job and working environment. Since then, unions and their allies have fought hard to make that promise a reality — winning protections that have made workplaces safer, saved hundreds of thousands of lives and prevented millions of worker 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 our loved ones their lives. Each year, thousands of workers are killed and millions more are injured or diseased because of their working conditions.

The current administration has moved forward to strengthen protections with tougher enforcement on serious violators and has proposed new safeguards to address the unsafe workplace hazards. Yet, many groups and individuals opposed to workplace safety and unneeded injuries and deaths are opposed to any new regulations and only wish to eliminate the many already in existence, falsely claiming they kill jobs. They are pushing so-called “regulatory reform” legislation to make it difficult, if not impossible, to issue needed safeguards to protect workers and the public.

While such reform sounds good to some, it does not sound so appealing when a family member, friend or co-worker is tragically killed or receives permanent disabling injuries from a preventable workplace accident. These workplace safety and health regulations that are under attack apply to all workers, union and non-union alike.

We cannot afford to allow the clock to be turned back in time. Please join us Saturday, April 28, at the E.J. “Zeke” Giorgi State of Illinois Building (200 S. Wyman St.) in Rockford at 10:30 a.m. as we honor more than 110 union members from across the Rock River Valley who have lost their lives since 1946 while working in their chosen occupation and renew our efforts to continue their fight for workplace safety.

Ron Welte is the 2012 Workers Memorial Day Committee chairman, trustee for Rockford United Labor and a retired Business Representative from IBEW Local 15.

From the April 25-May 1, 2012, issue

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