2017 Workers’ Memorial Day: Buffalo Area Labor Gathers At AFL-CIO Monument In Orchard Park To Honor Seven Union Members Who Died Last Year
(ORCHARD PARK, NEW YORK) – Representatives of the Western New York AFL-CIO Area Labor Federation (WNYALF) and the Buffalo AFL-CIO Central Labor Council gathered under gloomy skies over the weekend at Chestnut Ridge Park to commemorate Workers’ Memorial Day and to honor seven local Union Members who died in 2016.
“Each year, ‘thousands’ of Workers are killed and ‘millions more suffer injury or illness because of their jobs.’ Today, the Unions of the Western New York Area Labor Federation observe Workers Memorial Day ‘to remember those who suffered and died on the job – and to renew the fight for safe jobs.’ ‘We celebrate the victories won by Working People and will continue to fight until all Workers have the freedom to form Unions without the threat of retaliation,’” Buffalo AFL-CIO Labor Council President John Mudie, who presided over Saturday’s (April 29th) event, told those in attendance.
“This monument in back of me serves as a testament to ‘all’ Workers,” Mudie (pictured below), who also serves as Executive Vice President of Communications Workers of America (CWA) Local 1122, said. “We ‘need to be vigilant in our places of work and practice safety at all times.’”
According to the National AFL-CIO’s report on the State of Safety and Health In The Workplace: Death on the Job: The Toll of Neglect - which compiled 2015 injury and fatality data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) and Fiscal Year 2016 enforcement data from the U.S. Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) - 150 Workers died each day - which is about 50,000 for the year - from hazardous working conditions in 2015.
And, according the U.S. Department of Labor, an additional 95,000 Workers die each year from long-term Occupational Illnesses including Cancer and Lung Disease. In addition, another three million Workers may survive employment, but are profoundly injured on the job.
As it does each year, Western New York Labor – from the CWA to the United Steelworkers (USW) to the Teamsters, to name but a few, gathered in this same spot to rededicate its Workers’ Memorial that pays tribute to those who’ve lost their lives while on the job or passed due to suffering a variety of occupational illnesses.
“Certain days are ‘sacred to Organized Labor, but none so as Workers’ Memorial Day,’” WNYALF President Richard Lipsitz said at the event. “The ‘effort’ of the Labor Movement ‘has led to OSHA, Safety Standards, to making a better and safer workplace – we should never forget that.’ ‘But today, they are under attack – the wolf is at the door.’ ‘We have to unite like never before to fight in honor of those Workers who have shed their blood over the years.’”
Denise Abbott, who serves as Safety Director for CWA Local 1168 and is a Board Member of the Western New York Council on Occupational Safety and Health (WNYCOSH), read aloud the names of the seven Union Members who died in 2016: James Quigley, Ironworkers Local 6; Judi Scanlon, Public Employees Federation (PEF); Steve Wilcox, Radiant Floor Heat; David Drysdale, Teamsters Local 449; David Shradder, Civil Service Employees Association (CSEA) Local 602; Richard Wade, USW District 4; and Donald Schultz, CSEA Local 815.
The names were read with the backdrop of the AFL-CIO’s extremely large Workers’ Memorial - with its tall and signature-etched drawing showing an Ironworker standing atop a framework of steel girders, and several cut-out, squared areas that depicted individual worksites and Workers doing their jobs - including Electrical Workers, Firefighters, those who work in the Farming Industry, Steelworkers, Railroad Workers, and others employed in Buffalo’s Grain Elevators on Lake Erie.
Also etched into the Workers’ Memorial is an inscription that was read aloud by one of the speakers - long-time area Union Member and Representative Ray Struzik, who was also involved in the campaign to bring the Workers’ Memorial in Orchard Park to fruition.
It read as follows:
This majestic site is dedicated to the memory of all Men and Women from Erie County who lost their lives as a result of work-related accidents, disease or exposure.
As this memorial is about remembering those lives that have been so tragically cut short, it is also a place to reflect upon the enduring values of our country.
Generations put their lives on the line to pursue prosperity, braving the hazards of the factory floor and the heat of the fields without protective equipment or the right to a safe workplace.
Through the unbending conviction of Workers, Labor Unions and Public Health Advocates, we secured that basic right when the Occupational Safety and Health Act was signed on December 29th, 1970 and became effective on April 28th, 1971 - the date designated annually as Workers’ Memorial Day.
In the United States, we began celebrating Workers’ Memorial Day in 1989 and since then this date is recognized as an International Day of Mourning throughout the world.
Knowledge and research are the cornerstones of effective Work Health and Safety and are critical to improving how well we prevent illness and injury.
We need to do more than just treat and rehabilitate the sick and injured or compensate those who have lost loved ones.
Emphasis must be placed on the intrinsic value of work and the benefit of having satisfying and meaningful work, while having the right to be able to be treated like we are all valued members of a team.
Let us remember Workers’ Memorial Day.
We honor all who have perished and we recommit to ensuring no Worker ever has to choose between life and paycheck.
Also speaking at the ceremony was New York State Senator Tim Kennedy, U.S. Congressman Brian Higgins and Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz.
WNYLaborToday.com Editor’s Note: All Photos That Appear With This Labor News Report Were Taken By Your On-Line Labor Newspaper.