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Workers Memorial Day 2017

By Dennis R. Pierce
BLET National President

INDEPENDENCE, Ohio, April 28 — Every year, too many American workers are injured or killed in on-the-job accidents. Countless others get sick or become disabled because of workplace exposures to hazardous materials and conditions. Each year on April 28, we recognize Workers Memorial Day to commemorate and honor these workers and renew the fight for safe workplaces.

Sadly, most of the injuries, illnesses and deaths that happen on the job are preventable. The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) was established on April 28, 1971, and one of OSHA’s main goals is to ensure that employers provide safe and healthful workplaces. Rail workers are provided important whistleblower protections under the Rail Safety Improvement Act of 2008, and over the last several years, OSHA has protected workers who have reported on-duty safety violations or unsafe work practices. A safe work force is an educated work force, and I encourage you to read and share the OSHA Fact Sheet titled “Whistleblower Protection for Railroad Workers.”

Sadly, much work needs to be done to secure a safe work environment for railroad workers. In February of this year, a jury in Madison County, Wisconsin, awarded $7.5 million to a former Union Pacific employee who now has cancer linked to long-term exposure to creosote and other toxic chemicals. He suffers from acute myeloid leukemia, which the jury found was due to his employer’s failure to provide protective equipment despite knowing of the dangers linked with the substances.

Earlier this week, BLET Vice President and National Legislative Representative John Tolman testified before the U.S. House of Representatives about the need to protect railroad workers from fatigue. He also testified about the need to preserve important railroad safety regulations that keep railroaders safe.

With Corporate America’s push to break unions and end the Middle Class, it’s more important now than ever before to fight for safety in the workplace. I urge you to take a moment today to remember those who have been killed or injured on the job in the past year, get involved with your union, become active and aware, and educate yourself about the issues in Washington D.C. that impact your job and your safety.

Friday, April 28, 2017

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