WASHINGTON, April 23, 2014 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- "Each year we mark Workers' Memorial Day as a time to remember and honor our fallen brothers and sisters in the labor movement. In the United States, Canada and many other countries, we mourn for the workers killed and injured on the job and reaffirm our commitment to continue the fight for safer workplaces.
"Last year, unsafe working conditions claimed the lives of many working men and women throughout the United States, Canada and around the world. On average, 4,400 people are killed every year at work and 50,000 workers die from occupational diseases while millions more are injured. We know those numbers would be a lot worse if not for the decades of struggle by workers and their unions resulting in significant improvements in working conditions. Forty-three years ago, Congress passed the Occupational Safety and Health Act, promising every worker the right to a safe job. Unions have won laws and protections that have made workplaces safer for all.
"But we still have a long way to go. Many workers, including Teamsters, suffer high rates of job injuries and fatalities. Highway incidents continue to be the leading cause of on-the-job fatalities, and truck drivers suffer more on-the-job fatalities than any other individual occupation. Ergonomic hazards cripple hundreds of thousands of workers and musculoskeletal disorders remain the nation's biggest workplace safety and health problem.
"Many Latino and immigrant workers, who often work in the most dangerous and exploitative jobs, have no union protections and are afraid to speak out. In the public sector, many workers have no OSHA protection. Hundreds of workers are fired or harassed by their employers each year simply for voicing job safety concerns. And although there are dozens of whistleblower protections and anti-retaliation laws, many are simply too weak and remain unenforced. Too often these safety problems make themselves known in the form of large-scale catastrophes, like last year's West Fertilizer Company explosion in Texas that took 14 lives and the Rana Plaza factory collapse in Bangladesh that killed more than 1,100 garment workers.
"On this Workers' Memorial Day, we need to join hands to seek stronger safety and health protections and better standards and enforcement. In the words of Mother Jones, a small woman but a giant in the American labor movement, 'Mourn for the dead and fight like hell for the living.'"