USW recognizes health care members during Workers’ Memorial Day service

The Occupational Safety and Health Act, promising every worker the right to a safe job, has been in effect for more than 50 years, and more than 668,000 workers now can say their lives have been saved since the passage of the OSH Act.

Much work, however, remains to be done to protect everyone’s health and safety on the job, making this year’s Workers’ Memorial Day, recognized each year on April 28, even more potent.

Last Friday, USW Local 3657 hosted their annual ceremony honoring union members who lost their lives on the job and recommitting to protecting workers from job injury, disease and death. USW Health Care Workers Council Coordinator Tamara Lefcowitz spoke at the event, highlighting the urgent fight to protect and care for those who care for us. 

“Healthcare workers are on the front lines of the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic, and their bravery and resilience have been an inspiration to us all,” said Lefcowitz. “However, we must also recognize the ongoing risks and challenges they face every day, including workplace violence.”

Over the years, big corporations and many Republicans have launched an aggressive assault on worker protections and are attempting to shift the responsibility to provide safe jobs from employers to individual workers. The COVID-19 pandemic showcased this cruel shift, particularly in the health care sector.

In the AFL-CIO’s 2023 edition of “Death on the Job: The Toll of Neglect,” it was revealed that more than 1.5 million nursing home workers have been infected with COVID-19 and more than 3,000 have died.

Workplace violence, musculoskeletal disorders from repetitive motion injuries and occupational heat illness also continue to be major problems, but data no longer is reported annually to track and understand these important issues. Lefcowitz said it is vital that employers are held accountable when they violate safety standards.

“We need to ensure that OSHA has the resources and authority to enforce safety standards and penalize employers who fail to comply,” she said.

The AFL-CIO report also found that the fatality rate for Black workers grew from 3.5 to 4 per 100,000 workers in 2022, and more than 650 died on the job, the highest number in nearly two decades. Latino workers have the greatest risk of dying on the job, with a fatality rate at 4.5 per 100,000 workers that has grown by 13 percent over the past decade.

“This report isn’t just about data points, it is about people,” said AFL-CIO President Liz Shuler. “Every worker who died on the job represents another empty seat at a family’s kitchen table.”

Click here to watch the full recorded ceremony.

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