Today is Workers Memorial Day, on which we remember the thousands of men, women, and children who are injured or killed on the job. The April 5, 2010 disaster at the Upper Big Branch mine in West Virginia, in which 29 miners lost their lives, makes this year’s observance especially poignant.
But while that event shocked and galvanized the nation, it was hardly unique. Just days before, an explosion at the Tesoro Refinery in Anacortes killed six workers in Washington. In February, three workers were lost in a gas explosion at the Kleen Energy Plant in Middleton, Connecticut. Every day in the United States, an average of 14 workers die as a result of workplace injuries.
There’s a word we can use to describe the majority of these horrible incidents: Preventable.
On Workers Memorial Day we recall those who have passed, but we can also use this opportunity to redouble our efforts to create safe, fulfilling workplaces across the country. We can pledge to crack down on employers who skirt safety regulations in the name of wider profit margins. We can ensure that those companies who intentionally put workers in perilous situations receive more than just a slap on the wrist. We can support legislation, like the Protecting America’s Workers Act, to update and strengthen occupational safety and health laws.
And we can remember why we fight for workers’ rights – because we’re fighting for our lives, too.