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Minnesota Marks "Workers' Memorial Day"

April 30, 2007


Minnesota workers are marking "Workers' Memorial Day" today by remembering those killed on the job. Diane O'Brien with the state AFL-CIO says it's also a call for safer state workplaces.

"Eighty-seven people died on the job in 2005. Ninety thousand Minnesotans in 2005 had workplace-related illnesses or injuries. That's unacceptable. The vast majority of these illnesses, injuries or deaths are preventable."

She notes that the "Memorial Day" falls on the anniversary of the "Occupational Health and Safety Act" designed to provide protections in the workplace. She believes that law isn't being adequately enforced, and that there are ways to make workplaces safer.

“We can certainly make sure that employers are following the laws, providing the safety equipment, the safety training and the safety resources that they're required to provide.”

She adds that the trend in recent years, both on the state and national level, has been to weaken workplace safety, at the urging of businesses that don't want additional costs or regulations.

Minnesota Congressman Tim Walz is scheduled to speak today at a Worker Memorial Day meeting in Rochester. He believes employees need to represent themselves, and have a say in their job safety.

“It's an important issue for me that the workers and people that have fought to try and make workplace safety a priority make sure that basic human rights, basic safety requirements, the dignity of the workers were adhered to. And, we have people working jobs that are dangerous. We have people still getting killed. And, it's important to me because I want to make sure that we have a good balance of federal legislation that protects workers, but is not overly burdensome.”

High on Walz’s list is reauthorization of Railway Safety Act, which was last updated a dozen years ago.

Jim Wishner/Eric Mack, Public News Service - MN