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Sisters and Brothers,
First observed by CUPE members in 1984, April 28 is the Day of Mourning for workers who have been killed or injured on the job. Since that first commemoration 27 years ago, the date has become a national observance and has spread to more than 100 countries worldwide.
April 28 is a day to mourn and to acknowledge that each worker’s death is not only a tragedy for their families, but also for co-workers and the entire community. On this day we stand in solidarity with workers around the world and share with each other a collective sense of loss.
Every year, CUPE members mark the date and hope the year will come when one of our own isn’t taken from their family. This year, CUPE Ontario remembers Local 255 (Westario Power) member Brodie Schwartz, killed on the job September 21, 2010, while trying to restore power to residents in the Saugeen Shores area.
Most workplace fatalities and occupational diseases are preventable, but only if governments and employers exercise the political, economic and moral will to prevent workers from dying and getting sick from their jobs.
The members listed on CUPE’s Day of Mourning plaque in Ottawa did not die as a result of fate. Most died because the health and safety laws created to protect them were not properly enforced.
Between 1993 and 2009, at least 15,129 workers died due to work-related causes. That’s an average of three workers every single day. This doesn’t account for the estimated twelve workers who die every day due to occupational diseases, killed by deadly agents and work practices, and because they were simply trying to earn a living to provide for themselves and their families. To literally add insult to injury, most of their deaths are unrecognized by workers’ compensation systems across Canada.
On April 28, we must mourn those who have died, but also remember and advocate on behalf of the living. We must remember the many young and new workers who are injured and killed at far higher rates than mature workers. Not because they are reckless, but because they are not taught about the hazards they will face in the workforce and their legal right to work in safe environments.
We must remember the many workers who die as a result of exposure to a deadly assortment of cancer-causing agents that needlessly circulate throughout our workplaces. We must remember women workers whose health problems are often ignored and not acknowledged by health studies. And we must remember the working wounded, forced to continue working because they are unable to get the compensation to which they are entitled.
April 28 is a day to rally the world’s workers to reflect on what needs to be done to prevent more deaths and injuries and to signal the need to continue our never-ending fight for decent, safe working conditions. It is also an opportunity for workers here in Ontario and beyond to renew their commitment to demanding and creating safe working environments 365 days a year, so that every worker comes home safely at the end of their shift.
On April 28, we reaffirm our solidarity and commitment to workplace health and safety and state to all that we mourn the dead and fight for the living.