DETROIT – While mourning for so many workers who died in the U.S. last year, the UAW is thankful that none of its members died on the job in 2013. Each year, the UAW, along with the rest of the labor movement, observes Workers’ Memorial Day on April 28 to honor those workers who have died on the job, to acknowledge the suffering of their families and to recommit ourselves to fighting for safer workplaces.
“While we celebrate the fact that no UAW members died on the job in 2013, there are still more than 4,000 work-related deaths in the U.S. every year since 1970,” said UAW President Bob King. “Research shows that unions make the workplace safer by negotiating changes at the work site that prevent on-the-job accidents, injuries, and fatalities.”
The UAW has made important safety gains in many UAW contracts over the years. Examples include:
- requiring employers to recognize union health and safety representatives who speak out for the health and safety of our members and get management to correct hazards;
- establishing joint health and safety committees in which management and union members identify health and safety issues and develop joint solutions;
- demanding joint union-management investigations of fatalities, serious injuries and near-misses to identify their causes and fix problems;
- establishing health and safety complaint and grievance procedures to address issues;
- recognizing an employee’s right to refuse dangerous assignments without retaliation or loss of pay;
- calling for safety review of equipment and materials before they enter into the workplace; and
- offering training and technical assistance to local unions and their members.
The UAW and other unions help to make all workers safer by fighting to pass legislation that protects both union and nonunion workers on the job. Since OSHA’s passage in 1970, workplace fatalities decreased by more than 65 percent and occupational injury and illness rates have declined by 67 percent. At the same time, U.S. employment has almost doubled. In 1970, on average, about 38 workers were killed on the job each day. Today that number is down to 12.
“Virtually every safety and health protection on the books today is there because of working men and women who joined together in unions to win these protections,” said King. “This year the UAW is working hard for an improved OSHA standard to protect workers from deadly diseases of the lungs and other organs that result from exposure to silica dust. We are also demanding essential safety technology to prevent chemical disasters, such as the fertilizer explosion that happened in West Texas last April.
“The UAW believes all workers should be able to go to work and return home safely to their families at the end of the day. No worker should have to sacrifice life, limb or health to earn a day’s pay. And we’re going to keep fighting to make sure that workers come home to their families every day,” King said.
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