April 28th is Workers Memorial Day, a day where we honor those who have lost their lives on the job and those affected by work place injuries and illnesses. Working people across the United States and Florida are spending the day honoring those we have lost and committing to the fight for workplace safety. Below is a a look at how members of the Florida AFL-CIO observed Workers Memorial Day.
Message from Florida AFL-CIO President Mike Williams
Every year, thousands of workers lose their life on the job, and scores more die from long-term injuries and illnesses contracted at their workplaces. This year, and every year, America’s Labor Movement honors and remembers the working people that we have lost as part of Workers Memorial Day. On this day, working people and union members across the nation spend the day in solemn remembrance of those we have lost and continue our fight for safe and equitable conditions in the workplace.
Make no mistake, every worker lost, either on the job or from the long-term effects of workplace injuries and illnesses, is a tragedy. Here in Florida, 275 workers needlessly lost their lives in the workplace in 2020. Across the nation, 4,746 workers lost their lives at work in 2020, and approximately 120,000 working people passed away due to diseases contracted due to their jobs.
This information comes from the AFL-CIO’s Death on the Job Report, an annual report on the state of worker safety in the United States. While some progress has been made at the federal level, workers’ well-being is still in a precarious state after years of attacks by big businesses and their allies. I encourage our members to read the 2022 Death on the Job Report here.
Workers Memorial Day also commemorates the passage of the Occupational Safety and Health act in 1970 and the subsequent establishment of America’s main workplace safety governance institution, OSHA. One of the main drivers for the formation of our Labor Movement was the decades of workplace tragedies and lax standards that led to them. The formation of OSHA was, and is, a key step in the right direction to preventing tragic losses of life in the workplace. Unfortunately, OSHA has been consistently threatened and weakened throughout its existence, though there have been recent improvements at the federal level.
The COVID-19 pandemic is a stark reminder of just how essential America’s working people are. Time and time again, we have answered the call for our nation, states, and communities, often at great risks to ourselves. America’s Labor Movement will continue to tirelessly fight for the safety and dignity of all working people. This year’s Workers Memorial Day is a solemn reminder of just how crucial that fight is.
President, Florida AFL-CIO
West Central Florida Labor Council President Shawn McDonnell on the Importance of Workers Memorial Day
Today, April 28th, we honor Workers Memorial Day, a day where we remember all those killed or injured needlessly on the job and continue the fighting for strong safety and health protections. From the preventable death of 5 workers when molten slag fell upon them almost 5 years ago at the Big Bend Power Station in Apollo Beach to the hundreds of workers exposed to toxic levels of lead at the Gopher Resource lead smelter in Tampa to the countless frontline workers who served through the pandemic with or without personal protective equipment (PPE), workers suffer when profit-seeking corporations go unchecked and policy-making and enforcement fall short.
This past legislative session, Tallahassee failed to pass a bi-partisan Heat Illness Prevention bill (SB 732 / HB 887) that would have enacted protections for workers exposed to heat, including access to water, breaks, and shade while also providing training for workers and supervisors to recognize and treat heat stress. As temperatures continue to climb, instances of heat stress are only going to rise. Failure to pass this critical safety legislation shows how Tallahassee prioritizes worker safety.
With the support of Tampa City Council, the West Central Florida Labor Council obtained an Apprenticeship Ordinance last year which requires that major public construction projects use 12 percent of their labor from state-registered apprenticeship programs. This mirrors an ordinance recently passed in St. Petersburg. Apprenticeships programs are the industry gold standard for construction safety and skill level, and they put locals to work with our tax dollars. However, ordinance compliance has been a challenge as we ensure that general contractors such as DPR on the Hanna Ave project in Tampa obey the law and utilize apprentices to ensure high-quality building and safety standards.
We can do better to protect workers on the job, not just on Workers Memorial Day but every day. According to the AFL-CIO’s Death on the Job Report, a yearly study of worker deaths and injuries, 5,333 died on the job nationwide in 2019, including 306 here in Florida. Every worker lost is a tragedy, and as a nation and state, we need to ensure a safe and healthy workplace for all working people. They deserve nothing less.
President – West Central Florida Labor Council, AFL-CIO
Letter to the Editor by Palm Beach-Treasure Coast AFL-CIO Field Representative Ted Parsons
This letter was originally run in the Palm Beach Post, you can read it here.
Fifty-one years ago, on April 28, Congress passed the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA), promising workers the right to a safe job. On April 28 of each year, working families and union members gather for Workers Memorial Day to commemorate workers who have lost their lives or livelihoods at work because of a workplace injury or illness and to organize to ensure the end of these unnecessary, preventable deaths, and injuries. Florida has just under 9 million workers who are covered under OSHA in 717,855 workplaces and only 54 Florida OSHA inspectors. It would take them 477 years to inspect each Florida workplace once. The number of OSHA inspectors is near its lowest number since the agency opened 51 years ago.
That’s why workers and their unions are standing up, speaking out, fighting back, and organizing. There is no stopping until there are strong standards & enforcement to protect workers from harmful exposures, dangerous conditions, and retaliation for reporting unsafe conditions. All workers should be able to go to work each day and return home safely to their loved ones.
Ted Parsons, Palm Beach–Treasure Coast Florida AFL-CIO, Jupiter
WMNF Tampa: “All workers deserve dignity”: Florida labor recognizes Workers’ Memorial Day
WMNF Radio in Tampa spoke to Florida AFL-CIO Director of Politics and Public Policy Dr. Rich Templin and IBEW Local 824 member Kim Smith about the importance of Workers Memorial Day. You can listen and read to the story here.
Palm Beach-Treasure Coast Hosts Digital Memorial and Town Hall in Honor of Workers Memorial Day
This Workers Memorial Day, the Palm Beach-Treasure Coast AFL-CIO hosted a digital townhall and memorial for those we have lost on the job. You can watch it here.