More than 50 years ago on April 28, Workers Memorial Day, the Occupational Safety and Health Act went into effect, promising every worker the right to a safe job—a fundamental right. The law was won because of the tireless efforts of the labor movement, which organized for safer working conditions and demanded action from the government to protect working people. Since then, unions and our allies have fought hard to make that promise a reality—winning protections that have made jobs safer and saved lives. But our work is not done. Each year, thousands of workers are killed and millions more suffer injury and illness because of dangerous working conditions that are preventable.
Job Safety Weaknesses are Exploited by Corporations
Our nation’s job safety laws are still too weak, and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) lack the resources they need to protect workers. Many employers and workers never see OSHA in their workplaces. Penalties are still too low to be a deterrent. Corporations exploit these weaknesses and create environments where workers are not adequately protected when they speak out against unsafe working conditions. Black, Latino and immigrant workers are disproportionately killed on the job. Workers still cannot freely join a union without retaliation from their employers.
But Together, the Labor Movement Wins
Through the labor movement, working people have won safety and health protections from the shop floor to the halls of Congress. Unions are fighting for safe jobs for everyone, regardless of race, gender, employment relationship or background. Winning strong standards from governments and employers raises the standard of practice. Educating working people on their rights keeps our most vulnerable from being silenced. The labor movement is a community that comes together to ensure everyone goes home at the end of a work shift, alive and without the chronic illnesses caused by work exposures that continue to plague many workers.
Together on this Workers Memorial Day, we raise our collective voices to win stronger safety and health protections in our workplaces and stronger job safety and health laws. We hold employers accountable to keep workers safe. We demand action on critical safety and health protections against preventable workplace hazards: heat illness, workplace violence, infectious diseases, silica in mining and toxic chemical exposures. We demand more resources from Congress for our nation’s job safety agencies to hold employers accountable. We demand dignity at work.
We will organize and fight for the fundamental right of every worker to a safe job until that promise is fulfilled.