“As the nation grieves with the families of at least 25 mine workers who died in West Virginia Monday, we must confront a terrible truth: workers in a wide range of industries face horrific risks on the job. Just last week, six workers died from an explosion at the Tesoro Refinery in Anacortes, WA. In February, five workers died from an explosion in a rush to build a power plant in Connecticut,” said Andy Stern, president of the Service Employees International Union in a prepared statement regarding the West Virginia mine disaster.

“Why do these tragedies keep occurring? These incidents are not ‘accidents nor acts of God.’ These are preventable human tragedies. Facing the worst recession in decades, workers often face enormous pressures to ‘run coal’ and increase production to record-setting levels, while companies ignore basic safety precautions. These tragedies occur because workers have too little power to stop them, and corporations face little or no threat of punishment for their negligence.

“We join with the Obama Administration and Congressional leaders in calling for the overdue passage of the Protecting America’s Workers Act. This law will modernize the 40-year-old OSHA Act to improve workers’ ability to combat deadly working conditions. It will for the first time extend OSHA protections to millions of uncovered public sector workers. And it will provide Labor Secretary Solis with the powers needed to make sure that companies that violate the law, will in the words of the new head of OSHA, face ‘swift, certain and meaningful penalties.’

“As we approach Workers Memorial Day on April 28 to commemorate workers who have suffered and died from on the job hazards, adopting these reforms is the very least we can do to honor their memories. We will and must do better for America’s workers, their families and our communities.”