‘The Eagle Has Landed:’ The Niagara-Orleans AFL-CIO Labor Council’s Newest Addition To Its Workers’ Memorial Highlights A ‘Very Memorable’ 28th Annual Commemoration To Remember Those Who’ve Lost Their Lives On The Job
(NIAGARA FALLS, NEW YORK) – An impressive and stunning three-foot-high, 600-pound bronze eagle was formally unveiled during the Niagara-Orleans AFL-CIO Labor Council’s Annual Workers’ Memorial Commemoration that was held over the weekend in Reservoir State Park in Niagara Falls, during what was an extremely memorable event for a group of 150 Labor Leaders and Representatives, Elected Officials, Friends of Labor and families whose loved ones went to work one day, but never came back home.
With a call to “renew the fight for safe jobs,” the growing Niagara County Memorial was originally built in the early 90s in honor of Organized Labor’s area Brothers and Sisters who died of work-related injuries, said Bill Jakobi, the United Way of Greater Niagara’s Niagara-Orleans Labor Council’s Labor Liaison, who served as Master of Ceremonies on Saturday (May 11th). “We ‘mourn our loss and dedicate this special place in their names.’ In their memory, we ‘vow from this day forward to fight for a safe and healthy workplace for all,’” Jakobi (pictured below at the podium) said.
Niagara-Orleans Labor Council President Jim Briggs (pictured below) said: “When we remember the people who are on that wall, we need to think about it ‘more’ - ‘we need to understand that they were mothers and fathers and sons and daughters and cousins and parents.’ ‘It caused great pain when we lost them.’ ‘They are not just some number’ (heaped into other National Workplace Death Statistics). ‘They went to work and didn’t come home.’ ‘So, what are we doing?’ ‘It comes down to accountability and employers are not diligent when it comes to workplace safety.’”
Briggs, who also serves as Sub-District 4 Director for the United Steelworkers (USW) Union - and who had a number of his fellow USW Representatives in attendance, including District Director John Shinn, who also spoke at the event, cited the fact that Republican President Donald Trump’s Administration, the U.S. Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) in particular, has cut the number of Inspectors down from 1,000 to just 752.
“It would take those Inspectors (165) years ‘to visit each and every workplace in this country.’ ‘Unions are the voice for all families and we must speak loud and clear - every day - to make workplace safety a priority.’ ‘Unions are the only one getting it done,’” he said.
In what had to be the largest turnout for any of the annual Workers’ Memorials that has ever been held over the years by the Niagara-Orleans Labor Council, those in attendance were absolutely amazed by the newest addition to the memorial - which now displays 53 etched names of those Workers who’ve lost their lives on a variety of area job sites and workplaces.
Under a brilliant sunny sky, two firetrucks joined together to position a large American Flag high atop a hill overlooking the Workers’ Memorial, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 237 Business Manager Russ Quarantello said as he spoke at the podium: “This eagle is ‘soaring over this area, protecting our Workers.’ The Members of the Niagara County Building Trades ‘were happy to volunteer and give their time’ to this memorial.”
A State Police Rifle Squad performed a salute at the event, which also featured a lone bagpipe player before the roll call of names that appear on the moment were publicly read.
“What ‘better than an American Eagle,’” Jakobi told WNYLaborToday.com prior to Saturday’s event. “This eagle ‘is a tribute to those who have lost their lives.’ It was a year-and-a-half process and it was ‘paid for by donations and fundraising’ by the Labor Council and its affiliated Member Unions, including the Niagara County Building and Construction Council, whose Members ‘helped assemble the base it sits on and to lift it onto that base.’ ‘We cannot thank everyone enough.’ ‘It’s something that we all can be proud of.’ All I can say is ‘wow’ - ‘it looks beautiful.’”
Inside a large tent, after the ceremony at the memorial ended, several other speakers addressed those in attendance, including:
Earl Frampton (pictured below), a former President of Communications Workers of America (CWA) Local 1115, a former Western New York AFL-CIO Area Labor Federation (WNYALF) President and United Way of Greater Niagara Labor Liaison: “I remember back in 1991, this (memorial) was ‘nothing more than just a patch of dirt.’ ‘It was a dream, but people believed in it.’ We have the ‘strongest Unions here in New York State than anywhere in the country.’ Organized Labor ‘is coming back and I am proud to be part of it.’”
New York State Lt. Governor Kathy Hochul (pictured below): “This is about the ‘human cost’ (of Workers’ losing their lives on the job), ‘but we must not forget about those who have suffered environmental sicknesses’ (who also died). (At last count) there were (5,100) workplace deaths and that’s up from (4,500) the year before. ‘That’s why we have to fight like hell every single day.’”
USW District 4 Director John Shinn (pictured below): “We have a ‘serious challenge’ in (Washington) D.C. Occupational diseases ‘are being challenged right now by the GOP, which are taking regulations away’. ‘They’re taking away health and safety regulations.’ ‘And it’s Health Care Workers who are also being hurt as protections in the workplace are being impacted.’ I remember a friend of mine who was killed when (10,000) pounds of glass in a plant fell on him. ‘In memory of him and so many others, we will fight on.’”
WNYALF President Richard Lipsitz (pictured below): “We ‘cannot let the death of one single Worker become a statistic.’ ‘The only thing that can work to stop this is Government Regulations and Collective Bargaining Agreements.’ ‘Without Government Regulations, it would become the wild, wild West.’ ‘We cannot forget each one of these individuals (who have died) and their families.’ The government ‘has an important role to play in all of this and the man who currently occupies the White House has had a role’ (in the weakening of important workplace safety regulations). The next year and a half ‘is crucial.’ ‘I do not know what will happen in 2020 (when the President Election is held), but if we don’t fight now - we won’t be here in 2021.’”
IBEW International 3 District Vice President Michael Welsh (pictured below), who traveled from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to speak at the event: “Companies ‘cut corners when it comes to safety and it is up to us (Organized Labor) to keep up the fight for Worker safety.’ ‘We must dedicate ourselves so there are no more names on our memorials.’”
Marcus Latham, the President of the New York State United Teachers (NYSUT)-affiliated Niagara Falls Teachers Association (pictured below): “With the (20th) anniversary of Columbine, and with school shootings at places like Virginia Tech and Sandy Hook, ‘I also want to make the point that many School Teachers have also died on the job.’ Students and their Teachers ‘don’t feel safe, so we must hold our politicians’ feet to the fire.’ ‘We need our elected State and Federal Government Lawmakers to solve this problem and make our schools safer too.’”
U.S. Congressman Brian Higgins (Democrat-Western New York, pictured below): “This day ‘was borne out of tragedy’ and the Labor Movement ‘does not forget.’ ‘Enough is enough.’ ‘We need to organize and communicate in one voice because we have an obligation to stop this.’”
New York Assemblyman Michael Norris (Republican-Orleans County, pictured below): “My grandparents were United Auto Workers (UAW) at the Lockport plant. My father was an IBEW Member. My mom was a Nurse. I have a brother who is a Member of the CWA and another who is a NYSUT Member. ‘Because we were a Blue Collar Family, I was able to achieve a dream of nine.’ I am ‘proud’ to be part of the New York Assembly and represent (134,000) people (in his district). ‘I will never forget when I have come from and will reach out across the aisle.’ ‘This is not a political issue’ (Workplace Health and Safety). ‘We have to work together on this.’”
Niagara County Legislator Mark Grozio, a Member of IBEW Local 237 (pictured below): “My grandfather immigrated to this country ‘for a better life’ and he worked in coal mine where there was an accident. While others died, ‘he was saved.’ ‘Every day, fourteen Workers lose their life on the job and last year, (95,000) died because of workplace illnesses.’ ‘That’s why we are working hard to pass Carlo’s Law.’”
The proposed State Legislation Grozio spoke about - Carlo’s Law - would increase fines and penalties against any developer who “ignores, disregards or fails” to follow safety protocols in such a way as to directly contribute to the injury or death of a Construction Worker. It is named for Carlos Moncayo, who was 22 when an unreinforced trench caved in on him in Manhattan in 2015, burying him alive. The company Moncayo was employed by was subsequently convicted of manslaughter and negligent homicide charges.
WNYLaborToday.com Editor’s Note: The Photos That Appear With This Labor News Report Were Taken By WNYLaborToday.com.