The National Council for Occupational Safety and Health (National COSH) says the the winners of its 2014 health and safety awards are “extraordinary people” who are helping to make workplaces safer by empowering workers and building coalitions.
“There are at least 50,000 deaths in the U.S. every year due to workplace injuries and illnesses,” said National COSH Executive Director Mary Vogel. “The vast majority of them are preventable – and the way to prevent them is by following the lead of these activists: building power for workers, our unions and our communities.”
This year’s winners are:
Al Vega, Deputy Director, MassCOSH
New COSH Activist Award
Al was nominated by his co-workers at MassCOSH in recognition of his deep involvement in all of the organization’s programs, and his commitment to making the health and safety movement stronger by including voices of Latinos and communities of color. He has served as Treasurer of National COSH, is active in the Occupational Health and Safety section of the American Public Health Association, and chairs MassCOSH’s Temp Workers Right to Know campaign.
Rosemarie Molina, Board Member, SoCalCOSH
Health and Safety Activist Award
Rosemarie was nominated by her colleagues at the Southern California Coalition for Occupational Safety and Health (SoCalCOSH) in recognition of her extraordinary work as Strategic Campaign Coordinator for the CLEAN Carwash campaign. This community-wide effort to raise standards in a widely-used service industry has created an innovative organizing model and led to negotiation of union contracts at 20 car washes in the Los Angeles area.
Rosemarie has broken ground by linking issues of wage theft and safer working conditions, and has insisted the movement be built from the ground up, building leadership among carwasheros who can now voice their own concerns and find their own solutions to workplace issues.
Wallace Reardon, Central New York Occupational Health Clinical Centers
Health and Safety Activist Award
No worker in the U.S. has done more to advocate for safer working conditions for cell phone tower climbers than Wally Reardon. The cell phones we now all take for granted can’t work without high towers to transmit signals, and the workers who install and maintain them have a fatality rate 10 times higher than workers in the U.S. construction industry.
Reardon, himself disabled after ten years of climbing communication towers, has created an online community of more than 1,200 tower climbers and has become an indispensable source of information to workers, citizens, journalists and policy makers. His contributions to making the industry safer have been recognized by OSHA and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), among others.
Tom Joyce, President, Mid-State Education and Service Foundation
COSH Legacy Award
Tom Joyce is a member of the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades (IUPAT) and a long-time grass roots safety activist. By designing an innovative training program – and writing a grant to fund it – he has helped train thousands of trades workers in central New York on key safety issues including fall prevention, lead abatement, asbestos removal, working in confined spaces and other topics.
Tom currently serves as president of the Mid-State Education and Service
Foundation, a COSH affiliate serving Central New York state. Following the death of an undocumented farmworker in 2013, Tom pushed for a full investigation by OSHA and the local district attorney, and made sure the fallen worker was honored on Workers’ Memorial Day.
In addition to his work as a health and safety activist, Tom’s day job is at Blue Spruce Painting and Decorating, a worker cooperative he founded and continues to manage.
Debra Coyle McFadden, Assistant Director, New Jersey Work Environment Council
Tony Mazzocchi Award
Debra joined the New Jersey Work Environment Council 17 years ago as a part-time office manager and has since become involved in every aspect of the Council’s work. She became assistant director in 2008 and is honored this year for carrying on the organizing and coalition-building legacy of the legendary Tony Mazzocchi, a leader of the Oil, Chemical and Atomic Workers (now part of the United Steelworkers union). Mazzocchi was among the health and safety pioneers who successfully lobbied the U.S. Congress to pass the Occupational Safety and Health Act in 1970.
Debra’s current work in New Jersey includes a widely-publicized report on the risks posed by high hazard chemical facilities to both workers and communities, and The Healthy Schools Now Campaign, which works to ensure safety for students, parents and staff in the state’s aging public schools. A recent organizing success includes a commitment to rebuild Trenton Central High School, where water damage and other hazards pose a daily threat to everyone in the building.
“Eliminating preventable hazards on the job isn’t just a technical issue; it’s a political issue,” said Vogel. “And it’s not just a workplace issue; it’s an arena that affects families, neighbors and communities. We’re honoring these five activists because their work builds bridges and brings people together to make our workplaces and communities safer.”