NEARLY 50 YEARS AGO, Congress passed the Occupational Safety and Health Act, promising every worker the right to a safe job. Unions and our allies have fought hard to make that promise a reality- winning protections that have made jobs safer and saved lives. But our work is not done. Each year, thousands of workers are killed and millions more suffer injury or illness because of their jobs.
After years of struggle, we won new rules to protect workers from deadly silica dust and beryllium, a stronger coal dust standard for miners and stronger anti-retaliation protections for workers who report job injuries.
These hard-won gains are being threatened. The Trump administration has carried out an all-out assault on regulations, targeting job safety rules on beryllium, mine examinations, injury reporting and child labor protections. The labor movement and allies have fought back and blocked some of these attacks. However, this assault has taken a toll-key protections have been repealed or rolled back, and agency budgets and staff have been cut. The number of OSHA inspectors has never been lower. There has been no action on critical safety and health problems like workplace violence, silica in mining and exposure to toxic chemicals.
On April 28, the unions of the AFL-CIO observe Workers Memorial Day to remember those who have suffered and died on the job, and to renew the fight for safe jobs. This year we will come together to call for action on hazards that cause unnecessary injury, illness and death. We will stand united against the ongoing attacks on workers’ rights and protections, and demand that elected officials put workers’ well-being above corporate interests. We will fight for the right of every worker to a safe job until that promise is fulfilled.
DECADES OF STRUGGLE by working people and their unions have improved working conditions and made jobs safer. We must fight back and continue to push forward. We must:
- win new protections on workplace violence, silica exposure in mining, exposure to toxic chemicals and other hazards;
- defend hard-won safety and health protections and workers’ rights from attacks;
- resist any attempts to cut job safety budgets or weaken enforcement;
- increase efforts to protect the safety and health of Latino and immigrant workers, who are at much greater risk of death and injury;
- pass the Protecting America’s Workers Act to provide OSHA protection to the millions of workers without it, as we ll as stronger criminal and civil penalties for companies that seriously violate job safety laws along with improved anti-retaliation protections;
- pass the Robert Byrd Mine Safety Protection Act to strengthen mine safety enforcement and miners’ rights; and
- ensure workers’ right to have a voice on the job, and to freely choose to form a union without employer interference or intimidation.