To the Journal editor:
As a local union member I’d like to remind everyone in the Upper Peninsula that today is Workers Memorial Day, a day to remember workers who have been killed or injured on the job. It’s also a day to renew our commitment to ensure safety at the workplace.
Just a few decades ago job safety could not be assumed. Did you know five men perished during the building of the Mackinac Bridge? And although time has faded the memory, we should never forget the 51 men who died on Nov. 3, 1926, at the Barnes-Hecker Mine disaster in Ishpeming Township.
There have been others, too, over the years. Miners, steelworkers, building tradesmen, firefighters, police officers, bus drivers, electricians and many more.
And while safety conditions on the job have been improved over the years, due in large part to the partnership between industry and organized labor, we know there are hazards inherent to many jobs and we can never simply assume a safe work environment.
I am proud to say that my great-grandfather was a Pennsylvanian coal miner. It was during his era that miners fought for recognition of the dangers of black lung disease and for more stringent mining safety standards.
We are fortunate to live in an era in which many employers recognize that organized labor can be a partner in keeping workers safe on the job. Keeping workers safe is now the priority at most workplaces.
This should not be taken for granted, nor should it be forgotten that it was labor unions that first fought for the safety of all American workers.
Please take a moment today to remember those from the Upper Peninsula who lost their lives on the job. It is important because of the sacrifice they and their families made, and because we never want to return to a time when worker safety isn’t a priority.
Ironworkers Local #8