April 28, 2011

Workers' Memorial Day observances shed light on worker safety

Dotlich and Kucinich lead somber march past markers for each of the 313 assaulted on the job at Western State Hospital in 2010.

Led by visiting Ohio Congressman Dennis Kucinich, the marchers re-dedicated themselves to remembering those who’ve died on the job and to fight for the living.

“We need to be able to do our work in a safety-conscious environment,” Federation President Carol Dotlich said. “There are changes that need to be made. So we demand a culture of safety in this place.”

Management has crowed that the overall rate of assaults has declined, but they gloss over the most recent official state report that showed that the severity of the injuries has increased. The lower rate of assaults is also due to the state moving more patients into the community and restricting admissions. Ironically, no management representatives appeared at the commemoration.

“The number we want to see is not 313,” Dotlich said. “The number we want to see is zero.”

Kucinich, the keynote speaker, proudly held up his union card as a member of the stagehands’ union, and told of his relatives’ worksite injuries and the appreciation of mental health workers who have cared for his brother, who suffers from the disease.

“This is a moment in the history of the country when it’s never been more important for workers to come to the defense of their rights…,” Kucinich said. “We are sending out a message across this county, across this state, across this country, that we remember, we will not forget, and we will keep working to insure that workplace safety is held uppermost in the minds of everyone.”

Later, families of the 92 Washington workers killed on the job in 2010 gathered for the state’s official observance at Labor and Industries headquarters in Tumwater.

“Little can take away the disbelief or the pain, but coming together today to honor the lives of your loved ones in a room filled with people of good faith, many of whom have dedicated their working lives to creating safer workplaces, and helping those injured at work, I hope will provide some small measure of solace to you,” Jeff Johnson, president of the Washington State Labor Council, said. “I hope will be a part of the healing process.”

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