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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. Since then, the 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.
Every year, on April 28, the nation recognizes Workers Memorial Day. This is the day we pay our respects to all those who lost their lives on the job, and recognize the impact these tragic losses have on families, co-workers, and communities. This year, we also recognize that, more than a year into the pandemic, every day essential workers, many of whom are people of color and immigrants, have put their lives on the line during the COVID-19 pandemic. Many were sick or died as a result of just going to work – for simply doing what they had to do to support their families. They were healthcare workers, grocery workers, meatpackers, nurses, delivery drivers, farmworkers, law enforcement officers, teachers, and sanitation workers. We remember and honor every worker who has lost their life to largely preventable fatal injuries and illnesses, and we commit ourselves to fighting to make sure that others do not suffer the same terrible fate.
All over the world, workers have contributed towards providing and building a society that’s liveable and comfortable. Oftentimes, these workers are away from their families for long periods and face danger at their workplaces due to negligence by their employers in not being provided a safe environment. Because of this lack of concern, workers either die or are often injured and/or maimed irreparably. At times, they also die because of work-related illness. Worker union organizations, therefore, all over the world commemorate the day to not only fight for the rights of workers but also remember those who have passed away.
History Of Worker’s Memorial Day
The Workers’ Memorial Day was first celebrated in 1989 by the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO). AFL-CIO, established in 1955, is the U.S.A.’s largest workers union organization. There are several national and international unions registered with it. The aim of the establishment and the Workers’ Memorial Day is to honor and remember the millions of workers who have lost their lives while at work. The day also aims to provide better safety regulations at workplaces.
Workers’ Memorial Day on April 28, also known as the Day of Mourning or the International Commemoration Day for the Dead and Injured, also happens to be the legislative anniversary of the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970. It was on this day that the protection act was passed and the Occupational Safety and Health Association was formed. Before 1989, Canada, in 1984 and 1985, had also declared a day of mourning for the lost workers through the Canadian Union of Public Employees and the Canadian Labour Congress.
There was a 2% increase in work-related injuries in 2018. Some injuries and deaths are captured on CCTV, and this can lead to the employers’ prosecution. However, it is to be noted that not all injuries or deaths are caught on camera as many are work-related illnesses. In 2007 alone, approximately 53,445 workers died of work-related illnesses. Apart from these issues, there are long-term social and economic impacts on the workers’ families and the society at large. From facing financial difficulties to productivity losses to medical costs and much more, it’s a grave issue, to say the least.
Workers’ Memorial Day, also known as International Commemoration Day for Dead and Injured, is an opportunity to highlight the preventable nature of most workplace incidents and ill health and to promote campaigns and union organisation in the fight for improvements in workplace safety. The slogan for the day is Remember the dead – Fight for the living. Workers’ Memorial Day, also known as International Commemoration Day for Dead and Injured, is an opportunity to highlight the preventable nature of most workplace incidents and ill health and to promote campaigns and union organisation in the fight for improvements in workplace safety. The slogan for the day is Remember the dead – Fight for the living.
Make safe and healthy work a fundamental right
Workers’ Memorial Day, held on 28 April every year, brings together workers and their representatives from all over the world to remember the dead and fight for the living. In 2022 the theme is: Make safe and healthy work a fundamental right.
“It’s a no-brainer. Every working person should know that they have the right to expect that everything is done to keep them safe at work.
“We demand that the International Labour Organization (ILO) adopts occupational health and safety as a fundamental right at work. It’s as important as freedom of association and the elimination of forced labour, child labour and discrimination in employment,” said ITUC General Secretary Sharan Burrow.
Three years have passed since the ILO Centenary Conference agreed that this would be done. In that time around 8.1 million people have died as a result of their work, and even more now live with life-altering injuries and illnesses because their employer did not protect them.
Sharan Burrow continued: “The COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated beyond doubt that working people can’t wait for this any longer. Workplace deaths are preventable deaths and the latest figures show that a worker dies at least once every ten seconds. By doing this the ILO will be making a start on cutting this appalling toll of death and injuries.“
The ITUC and its affiliates are calling on governments to take action by:
- ratifying and implementing core ILO health and safety conventions;
- ratifying and implementing all sectoral or hazard-specific conventions;
- establishing national health and safety bodies bringing unions and employer representatives together;
- requiring occupational health services for all, and proper compensation including making Covid-19 a recognised occupational disease.
“Employers must take responsibility for assessing and eradicating risks in their workplaces and in their supply chains, and consulting unions on prevention through workplace health and safety committees.
“And we need the ILO to do more and address challenges like stress at work, musculo-skeletal disorders and a convention on biological hazards like Covid-19. It is urgent that Covid-19 is recognised for the workplace threat that it is. Health and safety should be the first priority at work, not an occasional after thought,” concluded Sharan Burrow.
Workers Memorial Day Quotes
- “Our nation owes a debt to its fallen heroes that we can never fully repay.”- Barack Obama
- “As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest
- “Heroism is not only in the man, but in the occasion.”- Calvin Coolidge
- “Never throughout history has a man who lived a life of ease left a name worth remembering.”- Theodore Roosevelt
- “Those who have long enjoyed such privileges as we enjoy forget in time that men have died to win them.”- Franklin D. Roosevelt
- “To those in uniform serving today and to those who have served in the past, we honor you today and every day.”- Unknown
- “It doesn’t take a hero to order men into battle. It takes a hero to be one of those men who goes into battle.”- Norman Schwarzkopf
8.” The brave die never, though they sleep in dust, their courage nerves a thousand living men.”- Minot J. Savage
- “May we never forget freedom isn’t free.”- Unknown
- “No duty is more urgent than that of returning thanks.”- James Allen
Workers Memorial Day Quiz
- What was Memorial Day originally called?
- Decoration day
- Civil War Day
- Flag day
Ans: a. Decoration Day
- Memorial Day was originally commemorated to honor fallen soldiers of which conflict?
- World War I
- World War II
- American Civil War
Ans: c.American Civil War
- What is the (official) birthplace of Memorial Day?
- New York
- Washington DC
Ans: a. New York
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