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Workers Memorial Day events to be held in Iowa


This news story was published on April 25, 2019.
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Workers on the job

DES MOINES – On April 28, the unions of the AFL-CIO observe Workers Memorial Day to remember those who have suffered and died on the job and to renew the fight for safe jobs.  According to a news release:

This year we will come together to call for action on hazards that cause unnecessary injury, illness and death. We will stand united against the ongoing attacks on workers’ rights and protections and demand that elected officials put workers’ well-being above corporate interests.

The Occupational Safety and Health Act and Mine Safety and Health Act promise workers the right to a safe job. Unions and our allies have fought hard to make that promise a reality—winning protections that have made jobs safer, saved hundreds of thousands of lives and prevented millions of workplace injuries and illnesses.

But our work is not done. Each year, thousands of workers are killed and millions more suffer injury or illness because of their jobs.

After years of struggle, we won new rules to protect workers from deadly silica dust and beryllium, a stronger coal dust standard for miners and stronger anti-retaliation protections for workers who report job injuries.

These hard-won gains are threatened. The Trump administration has carried out an all-out assault on regulations, targeting job safety rules on beryllium, mine examinations, injury reporting and child labor protections. The labor movement and allies have fought back and blocked some of these attacks. However, this assault has taken a toll: Key protections have been repealed or rolled back and agency budgets and staff have been cut. There has been no action on critical safety and health problems like workplace violence, silica in mining and exposure to toxic chemicals.

April 26: Friday –

Bettendorf: 11:30 AM.  USW Local 105 Union Hall, 880 Devils Glen Road. Contact financialsec105@gmail.com. 563-355-1181.  USW Local 105, IBEW 1379 and Arconic Davenport Works Leadership invite Quad Cities working families. Lunch will be served after the service.

Dubuque: 5:30 PM. Dubuque Labor Temple, 1610 Garfield Ave. Contact Pete Hird, 563-212-1529. dubuquelabor@gmail.com. UAW Color Guard. Dubuque Fire Fife and Drums. Councilwoman Kate Larson, Iowa Federation of Labor President, Ken Sagar, and Congresswoman Abby Finkenauer.

Iowa City: Noon. Iowa city Public Library. 123 S Linn St. Meeting Room A. Contact Greg Hearns 319-361-2374  GHearns@iowalabor.com.

April 27: Saturday – 

Keokuk: Lee County : Workers Memorial Day Dinner. 5:30 PM. Keokuk Lee County Labor Temple, 301 Blondeau St. Contact Penny Logsdon, 319-520-8742  onecentiii@yahoo.com.

April 28: Sunday –

Clinton: Clinton Labor Congress. 2 PM. Riverview Recreation Vehicle Park, (Spots #21 and #23) 511 Riverview Dr. Special memorial for Lt. Eric Hosette and a dediation to Adam Cain. Contact – Dave Keefer  309-230-6476.  dkeefer@lu25.org.

Sioux City:Western Iowa Labor Federation 4 PM. UFCW #222 Hall.  3038 S Lakeport. Contact Scott Punteney, 402-657-1007 spunteney@wilfaflcio.org

Waterloo: Hawkeye Area Labor Council. 4 PM. Labor Temple, 1695 Burton Ave. Laying of Flowers on the Memorial Monument and reading of nams of those who were kikked on the job.  Refreshments and light lunch provided.  Contact Jerry Hageman slinky1.jh@gmail.com   319-230-3757.

April 29: Monday – 

Cedar Rapids: Hawkeye Area Labor Council. 6 PM – 8 PM. IBEW 405 Hall. 1211 Wiley Blvd SW, Cedar Rapids, IA. Speakers: Paul Iversen, U of I Labor Center and Todd Taylor, Iowa State Senator Contact – Jay Larson, jay.larson@uweci.org  319-398-5372.

Council Bluffs: Western Iowa Labr Federation. 6 PM. Roberts Park, 1000 N 25th, Council Bluffs, IA. Contact Scott Punteney, 402-657-1007 spunteney@wilfaflcio.org

Des Moines: 11:00 am Iowa State Capitol. Speakers . Contact Mark Cooper 515-265-1862 or southcentral@scifl.org

Death on the Job, the toll of 2018

2018 List of Workers

This marks the 27th year the AFL-CIO has produced a report on the state of safety and health protections for America’s workers. It features state and national information on workplace fatalities, injuries, illnesses, the number and frequency of workplace inspections, penalties, funding, staffing and public employee coverage under the Occupational Safety and Health Act. It also includes information on the state of mine safety and health.

In 1970, Congress enacted the OSH Act, promising workers in this country the right to a safe job. More than 579,000 workers now can say their lives have been saved since the passage of the OSH Act. Since that time, workplace safety and health conditions have improved. But too many workers remain at serious risk of injury, illness or death as chemical plant explosions, major fires, construction collapses and other preventable workplace tragedies continue to occur. Workplace violence is a growing threat. Many other workplace hazards kill and disable thousands of workers each year.

In 2016, 5,190 workers lost their lives on the job as a result of traumatic injuries. Each day in this country, an average of 14 workers die because of job injuries—women and men who go to work, never to return home to their families and loved ones. This does not include those workers who die from occupational diseases, estimated to be 50,000–60,000 each year. Chronic occupational diseases receive less attention because most are not detected for years after workers are exposed to toxic chemicals, and occupational illnesses often are misdiagnosed and poorly tracked. All total, on average at least 150 workers die each day due to job injuries and illnesses.

In 2016, nearly 3.7 million workers across all industries, including state and local government, had work-related injuries and illnesses that were reported by employers, with 2.9 million injuries and illnesses reported in private industry. Due to limitations in the current injury reporting system and widespread underreporting of workplace injuries, this number understates the problem. The true toll is estimated to be two to three times greater—or 7.4 million to 11.1 million injuries and illnesses a year.

The cost of these injuries and illnesses is enormous—estimated at $250 billion to $360 billion a year.

During its eight years in office, the Obama administration had a strong track record on worker safety and health, appointing dedicated pro-worker advocates to lead the job safety agencies who returned these programs to their core mission of protecting workers. The Obama administration increased the job safety budget, stepped up enforcement and strengthened workers’ rights. Landmark regulations to protect workers from deadly silica dust and coal dust were issued, along with long-overdue rules on other serious safety and health hazards, including beryllium and confined space entry in the construction industry.

Opposition by business groups and the Republican majority in Congress thwarted action on a number of initiatives. But at the end of eight years, the Obama administration had put in place important protections, policies and programs that made jobs safer, reduced injuries and illnesses, and saved workers’ lives.

With the election of President Trump and Republicans maintaining their majorities in Congress, the political landscape shifted dramatically. President Trump ran on a pro-business, deregulatory agenda, promising to cut regulations by 70%. Since taking office at the end of January 2017, he has acted on that promise, issuing a number of executive orders to roll back or review existing regulations, including one order that requires that for any new regulatory protection issued, an agency must remove two safeguards from the books. He signed more than a dozen bills overturning regulations issued by the Obama administration, including two major worker safety rules.

The Trump administration has moved to weaken recently issued rules on beryllium and mine examinations and has delayed or abandoned the development of new protections, including regulations on workplace violence, infectious diseases, silica in mining and combustible dust.

At the same time, Congress is pushing forward with numerous “regulatory reform” bills that would require review and culling of existing rules, make costs the primary consideration in adopting regulations, and making it virtually impossible to issue new protections.

President Trump’s budget in both FY 2018 and FY 2019 targeted key worker safety and health programs, proposing to cut funding for coal mine enforcement and to eliminate OSHA’s worker safety and health training program and the Chemical Safety Board and to slash the NIOSH job safety research budget by 40%.

President Trump nominated corporate officials to head the job safety agencies—David Zatezalo, a coal industry executive from Rhino Industry Partners, to head the Mine Safety and Health Administration, and Scott Mugno, vice president of safety, sustainability and vehicle maintenance at FedEx Ground, to head the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. Both of these individuals have long experience and involvement with the job safety agencies, and have records of opposing enforcement and regulatory actions.

These are challenging times for working people and their unions, and the future prospects for safety and health protections are uncertain.

What is clear, however, is that the toll of workplace injury, disease and death remains too high. Workers in the United States need more safety and health protection, not less. More than four decades after the passage of the OSH Act, there is much more work to be done.

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