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Today We Honor Workers Who’ve Lost Their Lives on the Job

On this Workers’ Memorial Day, we honor those who have died on the job and strengthen our commitment to fight for safe workplaces.
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Today is Workers’ Memorial Day, when we honor workers who have died on the job, acknowledge their families’ suffering and renew our commitment to fight for safe workplaces. On this day 46 years ago the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) was established.

In the last four decades, workers have benefitted from many safety improvements. New rules to ensure protection from silica dust, a stronger coal dust standard for miners and protections against employer retaliation for workers who report on-the-job injuries are just a few examples. Labor unions have played an incredibly important role in improving workplace safety by giving workers a safe and effective way to voice concerns about safety and demand adequate improvements.

But much remains to be done. In 2015, the most recent year for which numbers are available, 4,836 people died from injuries on the job. That’s the highest since 2008.

And the current political climate is anything but favorable toward making further progress. One reason is President Donald Trump’s unhealthy obsession with slashing regulations. Do regulations save lives, you ask? In the last four decades, thanks to OSHA, the U.S. workplace death rate has dropped 81 percent, saving half a million lives.

But there’s also Trump’s promise to drain agency resources and cripple enforcement programs. In fact, his fiscal year 2018 budget proposal, which seeks a 21-percent cut in the Labor Department’s budget, targets worker training and safety programs.

Other threats to worker safety come through attacks on labor unions. Trump has voiced support for so-called “right-to-work” laws that seek to silence workers’ voices by weakening their unions. Should a “right-to-work” scheme become the law of the land, it’s likely to hamper workers’ ability to fight for a safe workplace.

AFSCME members are police officers, corrections officers, fire fighters, EMS workers, nurses, and road and transportation workers, among others. In other words, they do some of the most dangerous jobs in the country. They constantly strive to make us safer and improve their communities.

That’s why today we honor and remember those who’ve lost their lives on the job. And we vow to continue to fight for those whose safety and well-being depend on strong workplace regulations, as well as on their ability to make their voices heard through their unions.

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