The New Jersey State AFL-CIO thanks and commends our Union Brother, U.S. Rep. Donald Norcross, D-1st District, as he prepares to introduce a bill in the House of Representatives to make Workers Memorial Day a federal holiday. The state labor federation respectfully asks all members of the New Jersey congressional delegation to co-sponsor the bill and work diligently for its passage.
Workers Memorial Day is observed every April 28 to honor the lives of those who died or were injured or sickened on the job, and to re-energize the effort to create safe and healthful workplaces. This is even more pressing amid the coronavirus pandemic. April 28 marks the day when the Occupational Safety and Health Act went into effect in 1970, and the day in 1971 when the Occupational Safety and Health Administration was formed. It is a solemn commemoration.
COVID-19 has reshaped the American workplace and redefined the notion of essential workers. Frontline heroes who put their lives in danger every day include not only first responders, health care professionals and those who give long-term care to the elderly and disabled, but union brothers and sisters from every sector of labor. Members who are exposed to the perils of coronavirus include workers in food service and grocery stores, transit workers in contact with the public, food processors, workers in the building trades, and many more whose work goes underpaid and underappreciated.
And beyond the pandemic, the federal agencies supposed to act as workplace-safety watchdogs – OSHA and MSHA – are understaffed, underfunded and rudderless. Even if there were no grave illness stalking working families, safety on the job would still be compromised.
Elected officials who are union members know firsthand the value of work and workplace safety, and they bring that experience of life in the trenches and devotion to the labor movement into their government service, as shown in Congressman Norcross’ Workers Memorial Day bill.
The New Jersey State AFL-CIO applauds IBEW Brother Norcross for his leadership and longtime unwavering support for working families, and promises to advocate for this much-needed commemoration as the measure progresses through both houses of Congress.