May 11, 2016
WNYLaborToday.com Editor-Publisher Tom Campbell
Niagara Falls, NY – Niagara-Orleans AFL-CIO Central Labor Council President Jim Briggs evoked the name of the late Union Activist Karen Silkwood during the Council’s 25th Annual Workers’ Memorial Observance in a renewed call for federally- and -state elected officials to enact stronger laws to ensure that Workers come home in the evening the same way they left in the morning when they left for work – alive.
The names of 53 Workers are now etched on the Niagara-Orleans Labor Council’s Workers’ Memorial in Reservoir Park. Those in attendance Saturday stood in silence with their heads bowed as they listened to a Scottish Bagpipe Player and then a lone bugler who played taps, which was followed by a rifle salute to honor the deceased Workers. A subsequent roll call of the Workers’ names that appear on the memorial were read by Niagara-Orleans Labor Council Executive Board Members Scott Jones and Earl Frampton.
The name of Niagara County American Federation of State, County & Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Local 182 Member William Mangine, who was killed while on the job after sustaining injuries in a tractor-trailer crash in 1989, was added to Remembrance Wall this year (pictured below).
“I’m ‘tired’ of quoting numbers when it comes to the number of Workers who’ve lost their lives while on the job or those who die from job-related diseases every year. Any more is ‘too many,’” Niagara-Orleans Labor Council President Briggs (pictured below on the left, with United Way of Greater Niagara Labor Liaison Bill Jakobi standing in front of the Workers’ Memorial), who also serves as Sub-District Director for United Steelworkers (USW) District 4, told WNYLaborToday.com.
“What we ‘do need to do’ is ‘revisit’ history,” Briggs said. “It’s been ‘more than’ forty years since the death of (Labor Union Activist) Karen Silkwood, who tried to bring to light the ‘many health and safety violations’ that were happening in a nuclear facility that dealt with plutonium in Oklahoma. She died ‘mysteriously’ while driving to meet the representative of her International Union (the Oil, Chemical & Atomic Workers). When her body was discovered, a folder with information that she was carrying for the Union was missing. While legislation on gun control and terrorism is important, we ‘still need’ the help of our elected officials to get ‘stronger legislation passed’ that protects Workers on the job, be it from chemical diseases or workplace incidents. And the (U.S.) Occupational Safety and Health Administration ‘needs more’ Inspectors. Based on the number of worksites across this country, it would take the existing OSHA Staff (13) years to visit them – ‘once.’ I want to remember Karen Silkwood’s story because it’s a story of ‘collaborative efforts’ of Trade Unionists ‘as a whole’ who’ve fought and ‘continue to fight.’ Like ‘Mother Jones’ said: ‘When it comes to defending the health, safety and lives of our fellow Workers – if not ‘us, then who?’’”
In his remarks to those in attendance, Western New York AFL-CIO Area Labor Federation (WNYALF) President Richard Lipsitz (pictured below) heaped praise on the Niagara Memorial, calling it one of Western New York’s “‘Crown Jewels.’” “This spot is ‘so heartfelt’ for the families who’ve lost a loved one. And it is ‘every bit as a beautiful monument that I have ever seen.’ It is a ‘crown jewel’ for the Niagara-Orleans Labor Council to be proud of,” he said.
“The ‘defense’ of health and safety on the job is the ‘essence’ of the Labor Movement and ‘every single day,’ families ‘worry’ – ‘Am I going to get that kind of phone call? (Notifying them of the death of their loved one).’ And, as it ‘hard to believe’ – safety in the workplace is also ‘under attack.’ It’s a fight ‘we cannot lose.’ We ‘have to win this,’ for those who’ve passed so we ensure that they ‘have not passed in vain,’” Lipsitz said. To read more click on the following link