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'Workers Memorial Day' remembers terrorist attacks

On Sunday, April 28, the unions of the AFL-CIO will observe Workers Memorial Day to remember those who have suffered and died on the job. Each year more than 60,000 workers die from job injuries and illnesses and another six million are injured, according to the AFL-CIO.

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 or injured on the job. Trade unionists around the world now mark April 28 as an International Day of Mourning.

OSHA is holding a Workers Memorial Day ceremony today, April 26. OSHA chief John Henshaw will lead the remembrance of workers who have died in the past year, and also announce two new data collection programs to help OSHA better track immigrant worker fatalities and better target construction sites for enforcement and outreach.

This Workers Memorial Day has special significance. The Sept. 11 terrorist attacks claimed the lives of more than 3,000 people, more than 600 of them union members. Most of those who died were workers - those at their jobs when the attacks occurred and the heroic firefighters and rescuers who worked to save lives. Several weeks later, workers again were victims as deadly anthrax was sent through the mail, infecting postal workers and others.

Here's what the AFL-CIO encourages activists to do for Workers Memorial Day:

  • Hold a candlelight vigil, memorial service or moment of silence to remember those who have died on the job and to highlight job safety problems in your community and at your workplace.
  • Organize a rally to highlight the job safety and health problems in your community or at your workplace and how the union is fighting to improve protections.
  • Create a memorial at workplaces or in communities where workers have been killed on the job.
  • Distribute workplace fliers and organize a call-in to congressional representatives during lunch times or break times. Tell your representatives to support stronger OSHA, MSHA and worker safety and health protections.
  • Organize petition and letter-writing campaigns to urge the Bush administration and Congress to issue a new ergonomics standard to protect workers from crippling injuries. Petitions and sample letters are available from the AFL-CIO.
  • Hold a public meeting with congressional representatives in their home districts. Bring injured workers and family members who can talk firsthand about the need for strong safety and health protections. Invite local religious leaders and other allies to participate in the meeting.
  • Write a letter to the editor of your local paper. Talk to reporters you know and encourage them to write a story about how the threat to job safety protections endangers workers in your community.

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