Labor to observe Workers Memorial Day

PORTLAND, OR -- April 28 is Workers Memorial Day and while it will honor those killed and injured on the job, it also is a chance to renew the fight for stronger safety and health laws.

In Portland, the Northwest Oregon Labor Council will hold a church service and march at St. James Lutheran Church from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. The names of the 109 workers killed on the job last year in Oregon will be read. The Portland Police Bureau's Color Guard will lead participants along the sidewalks of downtown Portland, stopping at workplaces where clergy of various faiths will read remembrances.

The theme of this year's Workers Memorial Day is "Safe Jobs -- Make Our Voice Heard."

Every year 55,000 workers die from workplace hazards and seven million are injured on the job. And yet, rather than strengthening job safety laws, big businesses and right-wing lobbying groups are hacking away at them. This year, their allies in Congress have introduced eight bills designed to make compliance with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) voluntary, limit OSHA standards, and cut safety training by 90 percent. But working families can stop them. Through workers' unions, they can stand up to corporations and right-wing groups and preserve the laws that protect safety on the job, the AFL-CIO said.

Now, these same big corporate interests have another idea. They're proposing a new law -- in Congress, as well as in many states -- they say will "protect" union members. They claim it will give union members a "choice" about how union dues are spent by forcing each union member to sign a written "permission slip" before their union can lobby for legislation, distribute information about bills or candidates, or encourage union members to vote.

The real purpose of the proposed law is to single out unions for burdensome restrictions and government regulations that will limit their legislative and political activities. Do they also propose new restrictions on the political involvement of corporations or other organizations? No. Even though in politics, corporations outspend unions 11 to 1.

This law would only make it easier for big businesses to do away with safety laws, the AFL-CIO said. It won't protect union members. It will silence them. It will divide union members and weaken unions. It will erase the voice that speaks for working families in Congress and at state legislatures. And it will give corporations an even greater advantage to demand policies that favor their interests -- including getting rid of occupational safety and health laws.

Don't let them destroy OSHA. Make a phone call. Write a letter. Talk to co-workers. Stop the law to silence working families.


April 3, 1998 issue

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