Crowds Gather to Mourn Those Killed on the Job and Demand Better Standards on Workers Memorial Day

Apr 28, 2017

Clinton Square was covered in chalk outlines to represent those lost. These people are each holding a picture of someone who died on the job in the past 16 months.
Credit Chris Bolt/WAER News

The chalk outlines of more than 50 bodies were drawn on the Clinton Square concrete today to remember the people in Central and Northern New York who died in their places of work. WAER’s Chris Bolt reports the memorial was meant to remember the victims but also to demand better safety. 

 “I am an example of - I had an accident at my work place. I work at a restaurant. I had a fall. I broke this arm.”

Andres Mendoza says he experienced the kind of attitude that can lead to workplace injuries and even deaths.

“My employer never told me about my rights. Never gave me any money to take care of this - to pay for my injuries or expenses.”

Andres Mendoza was injured on the job working at a restaurant. He received no medical help or worker's comp and lost his job as a result.
Credit Chris Bolt/WAER News

The Workers Center of Syracuse says 58 people have died in workplace incidents since the beginning of 2016 in Upstate New York, 42 of whose names were shared at today’s memorial and 16 anonymous. Chris Adams of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration says job sites are getting safer but still 13 people die at work in the U.S. each day.

 “13 workers who went to work on a Friday planning for the weekend are not going to go home. 13 families who are counting on that worker are going to have to instead be looking to figure how they can go forward without that income coming in. What do all of these 13 fatalities have in common? They’re all preventable.”

Workers Center organizer Nikeeta Slade says workers have rights, but it doesn’t stop there.

“If a worker feels that there is an immediate, imminent threat then they actually have the right to refuse. They also need to know that you have a right to know what chemicals you’re working with.  Workers have a right to be properly trained. But something we always stress is that it’s really the employer’s responsibility to make sure that the workplace is healthy and it’s safe.”

The crowd gathered at Clinton Square for Workers Memorial Day.
Credit Chris Bolt/WAER News

The causes of death were varied, including: fatigued truck drivers driving off the road, a flight instructor and his student crashing during practice maneuvers, a logger being hit by a swinging branch, a rugby player collapsing from heat exhaustion, a repairman falling off a roof, a veteran fire rescue chief dying in the line-of-duty, a young farm hand being pinned under a vehicle, a Reverend accidentally cutting his leg with a chainsaw while maintaining church grounds,and a state police trooper dying to brain cancer caused by the inhalation of toxic debris during search and rescue efforts following September 11th. 16 Central and Northern New York workers were mourned anonymously due to incomplete or confidential information surrounding their deaths. The ages of the workers mourned range from the 81 year-old owner of a Skaneateles tire service to the 14 year-old farm hand in Sherburne. Workers Memorial Day coincides with the date in 1970 when the OSHA workplace safety act was passed.

The Workers Center can be found at their website, workerscny.org. 1199 SEUI can be found at 1199seui.org.