Saturday, April 29, 2006

Memorializing A Lost Worker

Congratulations to Michelle Lewis, whose stepfather was killed in a trench collapse last year, for getting the story of her family's experience published yesterday, Workers Memorial Day, in the Burlington (VT) Free Press. Lewis's story was first published in Confined Space last January.
My sisters, mother and I have felt compelled to stop at work-sites as we have passed them in recent months. We have shared Mike’s story with friends and strangers. We want to honor Mike and to remind people to be safe at any cost. To my family, Mike is a hero. He died providing for his wife and family and ultimately teaching others to be safe. My mother often says with sadness in her eyes and longing in her heart, “This never should have happened to Mike.” She is right. Mike’s death was preventable, as most trench collapses are.

According to the AFL-CIO’s report, “progress in protecting workers’ safety and health is slowing, and for some groups of workers jobs are becoming more dangerous.... As the economy, the workforce and hazards are changing, we are falling further and further behind in our efforts to protect workers from new and existing problems.”

This Worker’s Memorial Day, my family will pray for the safety of people everywhere and will support the efforts of those trying to make change. I will think of my step-dad and will continue to share his story to advocate for safe working conditions for all.
Articles and letters to the editor from family members who have lost loved ones in preventable workplace "accidents" have the potential to make regular people and politicians sit up and take notice -- and understand that more needs to be done to make our workplaces safer. And it's up to those of you who understand what needs to be done, and the political context in which the carnage in America's workplaces take place, to talk to family members about the important work they can do to ensure that the needless deaths of their loved ones were not in vain.