Health and Safety Activists Pay Tribute to Fallen Co-Workers

USW activists on Tuesday marked the most solemn moment of the union’s health and safety conference as they paid tribute to the workers who died on the job at USW workplaces since the last conference in September 2016.

“Today, we remember those who were killed on the job,” said Mike Wright, the USW’s director of health, safety and environment as he introduced the tribute that included 52 names. “But what’s just as important is what we do tomorrow and all the days after that” to prevent deaths like those from happening again, he said.

That work included dozens of workshops on Tuesday, which addressed issues such as workplace violence, hazard mapping, on-the-job stress, and increasing the effectiveness of labor-management safety committees, among others.

While most of Tuesday’s agenda focused on workshops, the delegates also heard remarks from International President Leo W. Gerard, Canadian National Director Ken Neumann, District 10 Director Bobby “Mac” McAuliffe, and Emergency Response Team Director Allan McDougall.

Gerard told the delegates that the work that they do on health and safety is perhaps the most important action that the union takes in improving the quality of life for workers across North America.

“What good is collective bargaining, what good is a raise, if you don’t come home at night?” Gerard said. “The people who come after you may never know about the work that you do.”

In his remarks, Neumann made a point of celebrating the activism of USW members in instituting Canada’s Westray Law and in addressing the issue of on-the-job harassment and abuse.

The Westray Law, named for a 1992 tragedy that killed 26 miners in Nova Scotia, allows for criminal penalties when workers die as a result of an employer’s negligence. The law was passed after a 10-year campaign led by the USW.

“Since that terrible tragedy,” Neumann said, “we have never, ever wavered in our commitment to ensure that those workers did not die in vain.”

McAuliffe welcomed the delegation of more than 1,700 union members and management representatives to his home town of Pittsburgh and reminded them that the 52 people whose names were memorialized on Tuesday represented only a small fraction of the workers who die all over the world on the job every day.

McAuliffe also encouraged members at all USW workplaces to participate in Workers’ Memorial Day on April 28.

Gerard concluded his address to the conference attendees by encouraging the activists to never give up in the fight for safer workplaces.

“Things don’t change unless you fight,” Gerard said. “You should be very proud of the work that you do.” 

2018 USW Health & Safety Conference-DAY TWO

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