Workers' Memorial Day: NC Workers Dying to Work
Thursday, April 28, 2016
RALEIGH, N.C. - According to the most recent data available, 137 workers died on the job in North Carolina in 2014. Today the North Carolina AFL-CIO is joining with labor groups across the state to recognize Workers' Memorial Day to raise awareness of workplace fatalities and the need for safety improvements.
MaryBe McMillan, secretary-treasurer with the North Carolina AFL-CIO said, "On Workers' Memorial Day, we remember working people who died on the job, and it's also a time for us to resolve to do better by our state's workers. We believe too many workers have died and too little has been done to prevent such deaths."
The AFL-CIO is asking Congress to pass the Protecting America's Workers Act to provide OSHA protection for the millions of workers without it, create stronger criminal and civil penalties for companies that violate job safety laws and improve anti-retaliation protections for workers who report concerns. This week the Bureau of Labor Statistics is expected to release the 2015 data for workplace injuries and fatalities. In 2014, 137 people died on the job in North Carolina, up from 109 the year before.
McMillan said part of the increase in fatalities could have something to do with a lessening of state penalties for safety violations put in place by North Carolina Commissioner of Labor Cherie Berry.
"We've seen since she's been labor commissioner, a real downplaying of the seriousness of violations, and a penalty system that allows for significant reductions in fines," McMillan added. "We believe that companies need more than a slap on the wrist, in order to get them to change their behavior and no longer endanger worker safety."
In a statement, Commissioner Berry said "higher penalties don't translate into a safer workplace," and that workplace injuries and illnesses are at an all-time low. Additionally, she pointed out that the AFL-CIO has endorsed her opponent in the upcoming election.
Workers are encouraged to contact OSHA or their labor union if they encounter a safety concern on the job.
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