Unions remember workers killed on job

Decades of struggle by workers and their unions have resulted in significant improvements in working conditions. But the toll of workplace injuries, illnesses, and deaths remains enormous. Each year more than 60,000 workers die from job injuries and illnesses and another 6 million are injured. The unions of the AFL-CIO remember these workers on April 28 — Workers Memorial Day.

In Oregon, a memorial service will be held Friday, April 29, in Eugene, part of a two-day Workplace Health and Safety in the Global Economy conference sponsored by the Labor Education and Research Center (LERC) of the University of Oregon.

Last year, 69 workers were killed in Oregon, according to records by the Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries. (See Page 8 for a list of those workers and their occupations.)

The Oregon Occupational Safety and Health Division (OR-OSHA) reported 46 deaths — but those numbers include only fatalities compensable under the state’s workers’ compensation system.

The youngest worker to die was a 16-year-old laborer employed by a kennel who was thrown off an all-terrain vehicle. The oldest worker was a 71-year-old log truck driver whose semi-truck overturned and hit a tree.

“Every one of these fatalities is a significant event that affects a family, a community, a workplace in a very significant way, and even one fatality of course is one too many,” said OR-OSHA Administrator Peter DeLuca.

The first Workers Memorial Day was observed in 1989. April 28 was chosen because it is the anniversary of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the day of a similar remembrance in Canada. Every year, people in hundreds of communities and at worksites recognize workers who have been killed on the job.

The memorial service in Eugene will be held during the noon hour at the Bonus Room of the Student Rec Center on the UO campus, which is accessible from the artificial turf field between Hayward Field and the Rec Center on 15th Street in Eugene.

DeLuca will read the names of workers killed on the job in 2004.

All workers are invited to participate in the ceremony. If you would like to join conference attendees for lunch, contact Misty Green (mgreen@uoregon.edu) as soon as possible. The cost for lunch is $15.

At the LERC conference April 29-30, speakers from labor, non-governmental, and corporate organizations from around the world will discuss how they are addressing safety and health hazards and labor rights concerns that have arisen from rapid globalization, migration and immigration, and vastly different levels of regulation across the globe.

Speakers will include Tony Fung and Monina Wong of the Hong Kong Christian Industrial Committee; Franky Mo, environmental health and safety specialist, Global Compliance, Gap, Inc., of San Francisco; Nick Heywood of the Industrial Health Research Group, Cape Town, South Africa; and Agatha Schmaedick, field director/ Southeast Asia, Worker Rights Consortium, Washington, D.C.

“This is a tremendous opportunity for trade unionists, safety and health professionals, and health and labor activists in the Pacific Northwest to make connections with their counterparts from around the world,” said conference coordinator Steven Hecker of LERC.

The Labor Education and Research Center at the UO is organizing the conference in collaboration with the UO’s Wayne Morse Center for Law and Politics and several other national and international organizations.

The conference starts at 8 a.m. Friday, April 29. A reception will be held that evening from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at the Schnitzer Art Museum. The conference will convene again at 8:30 a.m. Saturday, April 30, and end at 5 p.m. For more information, call LERC in Eugene at 541-346-5054, or in Portland call 503-725-3295.