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Workers' Memorial Week of Action events garnered media coverage nationwide

Well, by all accounts, Workers’ Memorial Week of Action was a huge success.

Workplace safety advocates, unions, worker centers, faith-based organizations, family members, and other advocates joined together to honor workers who have been injured or killed on the job and to push for safer workplaces.

In Schenectady, N.Y., a Workers’ Memorial Day event that featured family members of fallen workers garnered front-page placement in the Albany Daily Gazette. Here are more photos from the extremely moving event.

In Western New York, a Workers' Memorial Day event paid a special tribute to a fallen Buffalo police officer, and a woman gunned down by her ex-boyfriend while at work, which was covered by WKBW.

In Wyoming, a Workers’ Memorial Day event received coverage in the Casper Star-Tribune, the Billings Gazette, and WyoFile. Here is a recap of the Wyoming event.

Dan Neal of the Equality State Policy Center said a Casper man whose son was killed in a construction accident just 19 days ago spontaneously stood and asked to talk at the Wyoming Memorial Day commemoration April 29. The pain of his loss rippled through the room as he spoke to the legislators, safety regulators and advocates there. He questioned why things aren’t better in Wyoming. 

“We’ve got bad people doing bad things out there, but we can’t seem to fine them and sue them and punish them in some way,” Ed Simmons, a carpenter, said. “My son was 22 years old, and I loved him with everything I had. … He was on the job one month, and didn’t have the experience to be doing what he was doing.”

Wyoming safety advocates hope to continue building on the momentum of the event to push for reforms that will improve the job health and safety climate in the Equality State. They hope to schedule next year’s commemoration at the state Capitol.

At New Hampshire’s Workers’ Memorial Day event, Gov. Maggie Hassan met with family members of workers killed on the job, and even issued a gubernatorial proclamation declaring April 28 as Workers’ Memorial Day in the state of New Hampshire (see photo above). 

In Massachusetts, MassCOSH released a report and held an event in front of the State House. Click here for more information and to see media coverage. Here are pictures from the Massachusetts event.

“Although the number of Massachusetts workers killed every year varies, the number of individuals who succumb to occupational diseases consistently remains in the hundreds, often on par with those killed in car accidents,” said the report’s co-author Marcy Goldstein-Gelb, executive director of MassCOSH. “This report helps shine a spotlight on this silent epidemic and what must be done to protect ourselves and our co-workers who are simply attempting to make a living.”

In New York, U.S. Rep. Jerrold Nadler joined NYCOSH, the New York City Central Labor Council, and the New York City Labor Religion Coalition at a parking garage where a parking attendant drowned during Superstorm Sandy.

Nebraska activists held a vigil for workers killed on the job, which appeared in coverage from the Lincoln Journal Star.

The attendees held candles and photos and let the tears flow as they remembered the ones they have lost.

“These are the faces that never went home,” said Tonya Ford, the event organizer. “It’s in the news one day, but the family lives with it forever.”

In Illinois, a Workers’ Memorial Day event was covered in The Telegraph.

"Workplace injuries and fatalities have greatly declined" since implementation of the Occupational Safety and Health Act, said B. Dean Webb, secretary-treasurer of International Association of Machinists' Bluff City Lodge 660 in East Alton, particularly fewer cave-ins and unguarded machinery injuries.

"This happened because workers fought" for safety, he said. "Collective bargaining with workers gave them a greater say about safety on the job. We believe all workers should go to work and return home safe and sound to their families. We call for the right for workers to speak out and form a union without retaliation, for a safer place to work and a brighter future."

North Carolina’s event and state report – which found that far more workers die on the job in North Carolina than the state reports – was featured in the Charlotte Observer.

“Clearly the absolute number of deaths has gone down…,” said NCOSH Executive Director Tom O’Connor, who wrote the report. “But there are still way too many people dying in easily preventable deaths.”

In Tennessee, graduate students at East Tennessee State University wrote issue briefs this semester which were used in the first ever public interest report on job fatalities in Tennessee, timed for release on Workers’ Memorial Day. Public events, organized by community and labor partners on this project, were held around the state last weekend. Here's a link to coverage from WBIR and to video of a Knoxville, Tenn., event.

In Washington State, more than 100 people attended a Workers' Memorial Day event held at the University of Washington. The UW Department of Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences Student Advisory Committee wrote a letter to Senator Murray in support of PAWA, and collected over 150 signatures from attendees and others in the UW community. A press release was also sent out, and one of the students had an article published in the Daily.

In Austin, Texas, Rep. Ana Hernandez Luna, Rep. Armando Walle, and Labor Commissioner Ronnie Congleton, as well as leaders from the faith community and labor movement, filled the capitol rotunda with song and prayers for working Texans.

Out in Los Angeles, a Workers’ Memorial Day event got coverage in ABC News, as well as in La Opinion.

"Some people say regulations kill jobs, but we know that they save jobs," Andrea Nicholls of the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor told ABC/Univision. "We must all must work together to press for more inspectors, stronger regulation, tougher fines for employers and better protections for whistleblowers who suffer retaliation from employers."

Added Shirley “Sumaq” Alvarado, "Immigrant workers face disproportionate workplace hazards and dangers. That's because they're over represented in the most dangerous industries.”

Across the country, we successfully promoted the message that not one more worker should succumb to a preventable on-the-job death. But as you all know, one week of action isn’t enough.

We must continue to be vigilant in calling for stronger worker protections throughout the year. Find a COSH group in your area or form a coalition on your own.

Together, we can improve working conditions throughout the nation and beyond.

(Do you have more photos, videos, stories, or media hits from your Workers' Memorial Day events? Email them to dorry.samuels@gmail.com.)