Worker Memorial Day: a day for mourning, recommitment

April 28th, 2006 by Julie Ferguson

“We were worried and afraid, but we began to accept our fate. Junior Toler led us all in the Sinners Prayer. We prayed a little longer, then someone suggested that we each write letters to our loved ones. I wrote a letter to Anna and my children. When I finished writing, I put the letter in Jackie Weaver’s lunch box, where I hoped it would be found.

As time went on, I became very dizzy and lightheaded. Some drifted off into what appeared to be a deep sleep, and one person sitting near me collapsed and fell off his bucket, not moving. It was clear that there was nothing I could do to help him. The last person I remember speaking to was Jackie Weaver, who reassured me that if it was our time to go, then God’s will would be fulfilled. As my trapped co-workers lost consciousness one by one, the room grew still and I continued to sit and wait, unable to do much else.”

I don’t know that I can offer anything more compelling to commemorate Worker Memorial Day than these words from Sago Mine disaster survivor Randall McCloy Jr.’s grim first-hand account of deaths on the job. (Full text of letter, free registration required)
As of mid-April 24 coal miners have died at work. But that is only part of the story. Every day in the United States, an average of 16 workers die from occupational injuries.
Death on the job: the toll of neglect is the AFL-CIO’s just-released 15th annual report on the state of safety and health protections for America’s workers. This extensive 158-page report includes both national and state-by-state profiles of safety, workplace fatalities, injuries, illnesses, the number and frequency of workplace inspections, penalties and public-employee coverage under the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSH Act). It should be mandatory reading for all business managers and owners. Jordan Barab has taken the time to cull out and summarize some important portions of this report.
Also timely today, The Workplace Dirty Dozen – America’s Dangerous Employers (PDF) – a report by The National Council for Occupational Safety and Health.
Additional resources
Worker Memorial Day – International Activities from Hazards Magazine
AFL-CIO Workers Memorial Day
Confined Space