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Workers Memorial Day: Organizing for safe workplaces saves lives

Commemorations are planned across Washington state


More than 50 years ago on April 28, Workers Memorial Day, the Occupational Safety and Health Act went into effect, promising every worker the right to a safe job—a fundamental right. The law was won because of the tireless efforts of the labor movement, which organized for safer working conditions and demanded action from the government to protect working people. Since then, unions and our allies have fought hard to make that promise a reality—winning protections under the law that have made jobs safer and saved lives.

But that critical work is far from done. Each year, thousands of workers are killed and millions more suffer injury and illness because of dangerous working conditions. So every year on Workers Memorial Day, working people remember those who were hurt or killed on the job and renew our struggle for safe workplaces.

“When workplace injuries happen, workers and their families pay with their lives and livelihoods,” said April Sims, President of the Washington State Labor Council, AFL-CIO. “We need to keep reminding ourselves that these injuries, illnesses and deaths are preventable. That’s why unions fight for safe jobs for everyone—regardless of race, gender, employment relationship or background. When workers join together and organize for strong safety standards and practices, it literally saves lives.”

Because of the pandemic, many Workers Memorial Day commemorations haven’t been held in person since 2019. But this year, events are planned throughout Washington state in the upcoming week, including:

SEATTLE (virtual) — Wednesday, April 26 at 11:30 a.m. — The University of Washington’s annual Worker Memorial Day event is a special ceremony that raises awareness about how we can strengthen our commitment to make jobs safer and save lives in Washington state. This virtual ceremony will be held via Zoom. Register here.

EVERETT — Wednesday, April 26 at 5 p.m. — The Snohomish and Island County Labor Council will host its annual Workers Memorial Day commemoration in the Mission Courtyard at the corner of Wetmore and Pacific Ave. in Everett. Get details.

TUMWATER / OLYMPIA — Thursday, April 27 at 2 p.m. — The Washington State Department of Labor and Industries will host its 2023 Worker Memorial Day ceremony virtually for public viewing and in person for invited guests. WSLC Secretary Treasurer Cherika Carter will be among event’s speakers. Get details.

LAKEWOOD / TACOMA — Friday, April 28 at 11 a.m. — The Pierce County labor movement will join the Washington Federation of State Employees, AFSCME Council 28 at its Worker Memorial Day commemoration at Western State Hospital, 9601 Steilacoom Blvd SW in Lakewood. Get details.

BELLINGHAM — Friday, April 28 at noon — The Northwest Washington Central Labor Council will host its annual Workers Memorial Day commemoration in the back lawn (Lee Memorial Lawn) of the main library, 210 Central Ave., in Bellingham. Get details.

VANCOUVER — Wednesday, May 3 at 6 p.m. — Join the the Southwest Washington Central Labor Council as it commemorates Workers Memorial Day at the Vancouver office of the Oregon Federation of Nurses and Health Professionals, 316 SE 123rd Ave A-1. Get details.

If you know of more events, please contact us and let us know so we can add them to this list.

The AFL-CIO has a list of events planned across the country.

CHECK OUT THE UNION DIFFERENCE in Washington: higher wages, affordable health and dental care, job and retirement security.

FIND OUT HOW TO JOIN TOGETHER with your co-workers to negotiate for better wages, benefits, and a voice at work. Or go ahead and contact a union organizer today!