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Days 4-5 of Workers' Memorial Week of Action: Twitterstorm, Events, and Remembering Stephanie Moulton and Luis Martinez

Workers’ Memorial Week of Action continues – yesterday with a very successful Twitterstorm, swarms of media coverage, and events from Massachusetts to California. Today, events are taking place in North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and more!

Yesterday’s Twitterstorm brought a wide range of supporters together in calling for safer workplaces, including the National Council of La Raza, the Coalition for Sensible Safeguards, the Center for Law and Social Policy, Public Citizen, LIUNA, WisCOSH, the Wisconsin AFL-CIO, SEIU, Worksafe, NAIDW, 9-5 Milwaukee, and others.

Here were a few of our favorite tweets:

From @LIUNA: Never forget those who died, fell sick or were injured while on the job. #WMDay #workersafety #1u 

From @WHSAUSTRALIA: Globally 1 Worker Dies Every 15 Seconds - 28 April 2013 - Workers Memorial Day via @ILONEWS | ow.ly/kne09 #WMDay #IWMD #WMD13 

From @RegsRock: Everyday in America 13 people go to work but never come home. #workermemorialweek #WMDay #workersafety pic.twitter.com/JQOzLbHqiE

From @WorksafeCA: 1.7 mil. #construction workers are being exposed to cancer-causing #silica on the job. @whitehouse we can do better #WMDay #workersafety

From @NCLR_Labor: The situation in chicken plants gets worse and worse. wapo.st/17X0qIC via @washingtonpost #workersafety #PoultryRule #WMDay

From @WisCOSH: #CorpAmerica says regs kill jobs.
#Workers know that the lack of regs kills #Workers #WMDay
tinyurl.com/d5a3kws 

And from @CLASPJodie: #PaidSickDays laws are win-win for worker safety bc workers who come in sick face more risk #WMDay bit.ly/ZR8lm9

We will also highlight two fallen workers today, since yesterday was too busy to post.

The story of Stephanie Moulton (below, right), a 25-year-old social worker who was killed on the job in Revere, Mass., was covered both in National COSH’s report, “Preventable Deaths: The Tragedy of Workplace Fatalities,” and in an article yesterday by the Center for Public Integrity.

On Jan. 20, 2011, Moulton arrived for her day shift at a group home in Revere, Mass. Seven of the patients living in the group home had already left to attend other programs, but Moulton was scheduled to accompany 27-year-old Deshawn Chappell, a newer client at the house, to a counseling session.

Chappell, a diagnosed schizophrenic man with five assault arrests behind him, had stopped taking his medication in the midst of his move from a Charlestown, Mass., group home, from which he was transferred after getting into a fight with another resident.

Moulton and Chappell were scheduled to be alone together in the house until another employee arrived to pick them up for the counseling session. It was not unusual for employees of the North Suffolk Mental Health Association to be working alone. Moulton was not aware of her client’s violent history.

The other North Suffolk employee had pulled up to the Revere house to take the two to the counseling session when she discovered blood in the driveway and noticed that Moulton’s Chrysler PT Cruiser, which was typically parked in the driveway, was missing.

Moulton’s 5-foot-1, 100-pound body was later found, partially nude, dumped in a nearby church parking lot. Chappelle had severely beaten and repeatedly stabbed her to death.

In the wake of Moulton’s murder, OSHA cited the North Suffolk Mental Health Association for a “number of incidents of violence or threatened violence” at locations operated by North Suffolk, and suggested a fine of $7,000 – the maximum amount that can be levied against an employer for a “serious” violation. North Suffolk is contesting those citations for being “overly vague” and for stigmatizing mentally ill patients as a “preventable recognized hazard.” The case is currently pending at the OSHA Review Commission.

OSHA dismissed another North Suffolk worker’s complaint about inadequate staffing in August 2011, saying it lacked jurisdiction. In the complaint, the worker had said that North Suffolk’s cuts “resulted in violence,” as well as “health and safety violations for both clients and staff.”

Moulton’s mother, Kim Flynn, has filed a wrongful death suit against North Suffolk. She also has testified about occupational safety for social workers at the Massachusetts Statehouse, and she is working with lawmakers to pass “Stephanie’s Law,” a state law that would give all workers in mental health facilities a panic button to summon emergency help.

Additionally, Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick in February of this year signed into law the “Social Work Safety in the Workforce” bill, which requires all direct services providers that receive funding from the Executive Office of Health and Human Services (HHS) to provide workplace violence prevention and crisis response plans.

Like Moulton, Luis Javier Martinez (39), of North Carolina, was killed on the job from an entirely preventable situation: trench cave-ins.

Martinez was working on a project installing a water line on the NC State University campus this past November when the trench in which he was working he was working caved in. He was buried in several feet of dirt and died.

Deaths from trench cave-ins are entirely preventable with the use of proper equipment, such as a trench box that supports the sides. Yet, every year, workers to continue to die needlessly from this hazard.

In Luis Martinez’s case, the tragedy is even more infuriating because his employer, J.F. Wilkerson Contracting Co. of Morrisville, N.C., had been cited previously for failure to provide its workers with adequate protections from trench cave-ins. Despite evidence that the company was not protecting its workers, NC OSHA failed to penalize the company with more than a slap on the wrist – and Luis paid the ultimate price as a result.

Luis’ story will be shared at an event today in North Carolina in front of the state’s Department of Labor, as well as in a report, “North Carolina Workers Dying for a Job: A 2013 Report on Worker Fatalities in North Carolina.” 

Read more stories of fallen workers here, and be sure to share the stories you have.

We continue to honor these fallen workers, as well as their peers who have been taken from us far too early, throughout Workers’ Memorial Week of Action and beyond.

We urge you to send us photos, videos, and reflections of your events nationwide so we can help to compile them. Together, we can push to make workplaces safer across the country and prevent even more workers from facing an untimely death on the job.

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