UW News

April 23, 2013

Workers Memorial Day event takes place April 24 at HUB Lyceum

Environmental & Occupational Health

The 65 workers who died from job-related injuries or illnesses in Washington state this past year will be remembered this week at a UW ceremony.  The Workers Memorial Day commemoration will be held from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m., Wednesday, April 24 in the Lyceum on the first floor of the UW Husky Union Building. The observance is open to the public.

The brass bell in the Workers Memorial Garden on the grounds of the Washington State Labor and Industries offices.

The brass bell in the Workers Memorial Garden on the grounds of the Washington State Labor and Industries offices.Wash. Labor & Industries

The Workers Memorial Day ceremony is being organized by the UW Department of Environmental and Occupational Health in the School of Public Health, UW Environmental Health and Safety, UW students, local union leaders, and the Harry Bridges Center for Labor Studies. The organizers are active in raising awareness and strengthening commitment to job safety and healthy work environments for Washington workers.

The Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 was signed into federal law to protect employees from workplace hazards. Yet, according to the event organizers, more effort is needed to keep American workers safe from preventable, job-related injuries, disease and death.

safety signs

Workers Memorial Day recognizes fallen workers and calls attention to workplace safety issues (Photo: Compliance and Safety)

They note that in 2010, nationwide 4,547 workers were killed on the job, and another 5,000 lost their lives to occupation diseases.  For that same year, the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates 3.1 million job injuries and illnesses among private-sector employees and 820,000 injuries and illnesses among public employees. The organizers added that, due to underreporting, these numbers might understate the problem.

Ten of those whose lives will be remembered April 24 were from King County, Wash. Among them were firefighters, home-care aides, laborers, longshoremen, park rangers, sales clerks, and taxi drivers. The names of the fallen workers will be read during the UW ceremony.

Nationally and internationally Workers Memorial Day is commemorated April 28, with events also held in the days leading up to the official date.  It was started by the Canadian Union of Public Employees in 1984, and recognized in the United States beginning in 1989.

The program for the April 24 UW ceremony:

Presentation of Colors
University of Washington Air Force ROTC Honor Guard
Karl Zapf, Bagpiper
Seattle Firefighters Pipes and Drums

Master of Ceremonies
David Freiboth, executive secretary, King County Labor Council

Keynote Address
The Importance of Workers’ Rights and Safety: A Call to Action
Michael Honey, professor of ethnic gender and labor studies, UW Tacoma

Memorial Recognition
Karen Hart, President SEIU 925
Our Fallen Workers – 2012
Names read by UW students, staff, and faculty, and community members
Our Fallen Workers Serving in the Armed Services – 2012
Names read by Cadet Justin Rees

A Message from Sen. Patty Murray

Moving Forward
Jeff Johnson, president, Washington State Labor Council
Marty Cohen, UW Field Research and Consultation Group
Megan Karalua, UAW Local 4121
Emily Garverick, UW United Students Against Sweatshops
Dow Constantine, King County Executive

Music by Michael Laslett and Mike Honey