Remarks by AFSCME Ohio Council 8 President John A. Lyall on Workers Memorial Day:
Workers memorial day is a day to honor our sisters and brothers who’s lives were taken in on-the-job accidents.
It’s also a call for labor to work tirelessly to see that every worker comes home alive from their day – or night’s – work.
April 28th was chosen because it is a day the labor movement declared a major victory in its decades-long job safety fight.
What the OSHA Act did in 1970, was to replace the patchwork of some states with – and many with without – job safety laws, with a federal law.
Looking back, it’s clear the sates with the strongest safety law were also states with the strongest unions.
However public employees were not covered under the Federal act. For Ohio, it would be another 22 years before public sector workers won that right.
Then, in 1992, House Bill 308 became law and Ohio’s 500,000 public employees joined the rest of America’s workforce with the right to a safe workplace.
This was huge for our members. Prior to passage of the law, public employers had no legal responsibility to provide a safe workplace. As a result –every year more than 25 public employees were killed on the job –- and hundreds more were injured in preventable accidents.
HB 308 was passed several times by the Ohio House only to be held hostage in the Senate. During those eight years we struggled to pass that bill, some 200 public employees lost their lives and thousands more were injured.
Today, the Koch brothers are getting sore arms writing checks to the right-to-work scammers who are determined to turn back the clock on workers rights – including job safety with laws.
They want to take us back to those “good old says” when a wife saw the foreman walking up to her door with a box of groceries, she knew her husband was not coming home from the mine, the mill, or the plant – but the company was real sorry.
It’s a fact that according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, that right-to-work states 54% higher workplace death rate than collective bargaining states like Ohio.
Sisters and brothers, we are truly in a life-and-death battle with the super wealthy who believe they own America.
The spider web of anti-union organizations they fund are busy at work in the courts and government at all levels. Using every tactic – fair or foul – because they are out to smother the labor movement and roll back a century of progress won by workers and their families.
Workers Memorial Day is an ideal time to have a one-on-one conversation with a coworker and let them know what’s at stake and how being a member of strong and active union is our strongest and best defense.
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