Monday, June 07, 2004

NYCOSH Awards Speeches: Guillermina Mejia

Guillermina Mejia, Principal Program Coordinator for Safety and Health, District Council 37, AFSCME, received the Karen Silkwood award at the NYCOSH 25th Anniversary Awards Celebration on May 14, 2004. Below are excerpts from her remarks.
My parents’ experiences opened my eyes to what I call ‘the world of unsafe work’. As children, my siblings and I saw the long hours our parents worked.

We would give our mother shoulder and back massages to ease the pain from the many hours she was hunched over her work table in the purse factory; we rubbed lotion on her dried hands, cracked from daily exposures to harmful glues; there just weren’t enough aspirins to relieve the headaches caused by the chemical fumes in that poorly ventilated factory. To earn extra income, our father would bring work home from the dental lab. While he made dental bridges, we played with the silvery-white mercury used back then. Neither he nor we would know until much later of the hazards of this poisonous metallic element.

As a child, I did not know that these conditions constituted abuses in the workplace. I thought that was the life hard-working immigrant parents had to accept and endure. The impressions of my parents’ experiences provide me today with the impetus to tackle daily safety and health concerns head on. Back then I could not make a difference in their work lives. I make up for it today, by working hard to ensure every DC 37 member has a safe work environment.