April 26, 2024

Workers Memorial Day: Remembering fallen workers

There are events this weekend in observation of Workers Memorial Day throughout Illinois.
Check this list to find one near you.

On April 28 we observe Workers Memorial Day, a day to remember workers who have been killed on the job and to recommit ourselves to fighting for safer working conditions for all.

In the past year, two AFSCME members, both employees of the Department of Corrections, have been killed in the line of duty.

Chris James, 48, a corrections maintenance craftsman at East Moline Correctional Center, was killed in an accident on May 23, 2023 at the prison as he was trimming trees from a bucket truck. A longtime union activist, he served as AFSCME Local 46’s treasurer and was a member of state of Illinois bargaining committee at the time of his death.

On April 8, 2024, Sgt. Andrew Faught, 27, was killed in a car accident while responding to a tactical call at Lawrence Correctional Center. A member of AFSCME Local 494, Sgt. Faught served on the IDOC Tactical Response Team and is remembered for his bravery with his unit.

We can also never forget the memories of the many more AFSCME members who have lost their lives on the job in recent years, like Pam Knight and Deidre Silas, both employees of the Department of Children and Family Services who were murdered while trying to keep children from harm.

National action is needed

According to the AFL-CIO’s annual Death on the Job report, Illinois ranks among the safer states for workers thanks to our strong unions and comparably strong safety enforcement measures.

But workplace safety is still a serious concern. In 2022, the most recent year data is available, 5,486 workers died on the job across this country; That’s equivalent to 344 on-the-job deaths every single day. Another 6,000 workers were injured on the job every day.

Federal funding for workplace safety enforcement has continued to stagnate. The budget for the Occupational Safety and Health Administration amounts to $3.93 to protect each worker covered by the act. In 2019, there was only one federal OSHA inspector for every 83,207 workers. That gives OSHA the ability to inspect workplaces only once every 107 years.

But one thing is clear: A union workplace is a safer workplace. The Illinois Economic Policy Institute found that union workplaces have 19% fewer OSHA violations than non-union workplaces.

When we have a voice on the health and safety issues that affect us every day, we can better protect ourselves and our coworkers.

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