Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Mourn for the dead. Fight for the living.

Today is Workers Memorial Day.

Here's information from the AFL-CIO website:

"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, thousands of workers are killed and millions more are injured or diseased because of their jobs. The unions of the AFL-CIO remember these workers on April 28, Workers Memorial Day.

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."

As an aside, there are folks who openly wonder out loud if unions matter any more. They do. In the past, we are the folks who fought and won for everyone: the eight hour workday; child labor laws; the right to bargain working conditions and wages with employers and the minimum wage law. These gains were not won overnight. Many have fought and died for them. We still struggle with keeping the gains from the past, especially in these tough economic times, while keeping an eye on current and future needs.

As a library worker, I am dedicated to making sure people have the information they need. To read a little history on some early struggles, try reading Upton Sinclair's book, "The Jungle". Here is a link to labor history: http://www.kentlaw.edu/ilhs/curricul.htm

My union, AFSCME Council 24, recently had DNR union brother , 36 year old Heath Van Handel, die while he was keeping watch on a wildfire from his state owned plane on April 8, 2009, near Marshfield, WI. He died on the job trying to keep the public safe. May he rest in peace.

I end this in solidarity with all of my union brothers and sisters asking you to please keep all those who have died, have been injured or sickened because of work in your thoughts and prayers today.

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