September 5, 2008 Volume 109 Number 17

Permanent Workers’ Memorial to be built at Salem’s Capitol Mall

A permanent Fallen Worker Memorial will soon break ground on the Capitol Mall in Salem.

“All the plans have been approved, and an agreement has been signed with the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department,” reported Oregon AFL-CIO field rep Steve Lanning, to the Executive Board of the state labor federation on Aug. 15.

The Oregon AFL-CIO’s Safety and Health Committee has been trying for more than three years to erect a permanent memorial in Salem to honor workers who have been killed or injured on the job. The idea for a permanent memorial came in the form of a resolution passed at an Oregon AFL-CIO convention in 2005.

But bureaucratic red tape hampered the process. First it took much longer than expected to get state approval for the memorial design. Then, securing a location was delayed. Finally, after most of that had been settled, an unexpected management fee was tacked on that would have added another $28,000 to the cost of the $19,000 project.

The Safety and Health Committee persevered and, finally, the Fallen Workers Memorial is on track to be built.

It will be dedicated on Workers’ Memorial Day April 28, 2009, said Al Dorgan, president of Albany Steelworkers Local 7150 and chair of the Safety and Health Committee.

The national AFL-CIO declared April 28 as Workers’ Memorial Day more than two decades ago to remember those who have been killed or injured on the job. Every year unions throughout the country hold services to remember those workers.

“Once ground is broken, it will take only a week or two to complete,” Dorgan said.

The memorial will consist of a large boulder with an inscribed bronze plaque attached to it. The boulder will rest within a landscaped sitting area near the main entrance of the Labor and Industries Building at 350 Winter St. NE, Salem.

Cost for the memorial will be roughly $20,000. About $10,000 is in the bank, with another $9,000 pledged. Talks are under way with union contractor Pence Kelly of Salem to erect the memorial.

In the meantime, donations for the Fallen Workers Memorial still can be sent to: Workers Memorial Fund, c/o Oregon AFL-CIO, 2110 State Street, Salem, OR 97301.

Editor’s Note: A permanent Workers Memorial also will be erected on the grounds of the National Labor College/George Meany Center in Silver Spring, Md.

The names of thousands of workers — starting with the Haymarket massacre by Chicago police in 1886 — will be honored by the memorial, to be financed by union and individual contributions. It will feature individual bricks honoring individual workers who died on the job and benches from the unions that honor groups of workers.

Bricks are being sold for $125; slate pavers commemorating historic workplace tragedies, such as the Sago mine disaster, are sold for $2,000, and whole categories of fallen workers can be listed on a granite bench at a cost of $10,000. For more information, contact the college at 301-431-5406.

Nationwide, there have been 133 worker memorial sites erected in 33 states since 1989. These memorials range from life-size bronze statues of miners to wall placards.

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