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Paying Respects and Looking Forward on Workers Memorial Day

An open letter from the Charlotte-Metrolina Labor Council

Workers Memorial Day
A UAW strike rolled out in Charlotte in September 2023. (Photo by Lee Flythe)

The following is an essay submitted by the local Charlotte-Metrolina Labor Council, one of nearly 500 state and local labor councils of the AFL-CIO, in the lead-up to this weekend’s Workers Memorial Day. 

April 28 is Workers Memorial Day, a day when working families, union members and labor leaders come together to remember each worker killed, injured, and sickened from their jobs, and to organize for an end to the unnecessary deaths of our brothers and sisters.

Working families are forced to deal with insurmountable loss every single day. Last year, more than 125,000 workers in the United States were killed and millions more suffered injury or illness because of their jobs. The job fatality rate increased to 3.6 per 100,000 workers. Black, Latinx and immigrant workers were disproportionately killed and injured on the job. 

Immigration status and lack of union representation make workers especially vulnerable to unsafe working conditions. Companies and corporations are doing very little to abide by regulations and those that violate regulations are usually given a slap on the wrist when one of their employees is killed.

More than 50 years ago, Congress passed the Occupational Safety and Health Act, promising every worker the right to a safe job; however, far too many workers die from preventable safety hazards. 

Being safe at work is a fundamental right — and under the law, employers must provide workplaces free from hazards. Unions are fighting for good and safe jobs for everyone. Winning strong standards in the halls of government raises the standards of practice on the shop floor. We are committed to protecting and making real our fundamental right to a safe job. 

On Workers Memorial Day, we will be gathering to mourn the workers whose lives were lost as a result of dangerous working conditions. We will celebrate the lives of working families who have gone through tremendous suffering as a result of poor working conditions, and we will collectively condemn the lack of effort in preventing on-the-job related injuries, illnesses and deaths. 

We will not stop until Congress increases funding for job safety agencies like the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), until we have stronger standards to protect against harmful exposures and dangerous conditions, and until we improve anti-retaliation protections so that workers can raise safety concerns on the job. Because enough is enough.

Sincerely,
Charlotte-Metrolina Labor Council
Charlotte, NC

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