Amidst Covid Pandemic, Rochester Labor Council Observes Workers Memorial Day

Rochester, NY -- It has been 50 years since the historic passage of the Occupational Safety and Health Act. This act has improved the lives of millions of working people. Still, there are cracks that prevent all workers from having a safe workplace. 

In light of the Covid-19 pandemic and resulting lockdowns, we have all begun to think more clearly about the essential nature of so many jobs and the dangers that can come from going to work. The Labor movement and many working class people have never forgotten how dangerous all of our essential work can be. 

This virus has shown us who’s truly necessary to keep our Nation safe and secure, and who is at the greatest risk. It is not the Wall Street broker, banker, or corporate CEO that really matters when things need fixing; it is the blue collar worker that gets it done.” - Dan Maloney, President, Rochester & Genesee Valley Area Labor Federation. 

In 2019, there were 11 publicly identified workplace fatalities in our region: three each in Seneca and Livingston Counties, two in Monroe County, and one each in Genesee, Ontario and Wayne Counties. These working people ranged in age from 21 to 70 and 8 of the 11 were transportation related. Four of those killed in transportation related events were themselves on foot, struck by vehicles on work sites. 

We know that 2020 will bring far more workplaces fatalities, as many workers face exposure to Covid-19 while working to keep us safe. These include the first responders and health care workers whose risks are being rightfully commemorated by all now. It also includes postal workers, food service workers, farmworkers, utility workers, and hundreds of others whose vital contributions are now recognized. 

It is with great irony and sadness that those of us in the Rochester Labor Council witness how the critical work done by these workers has been so undervalued in previous years. Fair wages, health care benefits, retirement benefits, job security and the right to a voice on the job through a union for many of these workers have been persistently pushed-back by big corporate interests and the politicians that they buy. We will continue to remember how essential these working people are today and for years to come.

“As we mark Workers Memorial Day, we need to reflect on those who are considered essential, those who work in health care, grocery stores, drug stores, transportation and so many other workplaces. I know how hard unions and their allies have fought hard for worker rights and to make the workplace safe. Our nation is currently facing a public health crisis due to the COVID-19 pandemic. As the virus spreads, many employers are woefully unprepared. This year during our current national crisis we must repeat this year’s Workers Memorial Day theme ‘Protect Our Rights. Speak Up for Safe Jobs.’ I believe that this encourages us to think of ways in which we all can help to achieve the goal of safer and healthier workplaces.” - Harry Bronson, New York State Assembly.