By ROBERT KELLY
Alton, IL — The sacrifices that working men and women have made on the job in the United States are as significant as the sacrifices made by members of the nation’s military, Associate Madison County Judge Sarah Smith told those gathered for the Greater Madison County Federation of Labor’s annual Workers Memorial Day Service.
“Here in the United States we have people who make sacrifices every day on the job,” Smith said. “They are the back-bone of the country, and they are true patriots.”
She compared the hard work done by Labor to the hard work done by the military in making the country strong and free. Smith was among the speakers at the service on Saturday, April 28, at the Workers Memorial Statue located in the Gordon F. Moore Community Park, Highway 140 and Park Road, Alton.
Smith noted that while the armed forces risk their lives daily to keep the nation safe, many workers in civilian jobs also risk their lives in dangerous conditions to produce American-made goods and services and help keep the economy strong. “How could you be more of a patriot than that?” she asked.
In addition, she noted that over the years more union workers have also served in the U.S. military than bankers, CEOs and politicians. She criticized politicians who support so-called “right-to-work” laws, saying that in states with such laws overall poverty has increased and the wage gaps between male and female workers have grown. “That is not patriotism,” she said.
Smith and other speakers at the service urged the nearly 100 people in attendance to continue to fight for workers’ rights and safety on the job, and credited Organized Labor with leading that fight.
AVERAGE OF THREE ILLINOIS WORKERS LOSE THEIR LIVES EACH WEEK
Madison County Coroner Steve Nonn said that even though no workers were lost in Madison County last year, an average of three workers’ lives are lost in on-the-job accidents each week Illinois. “This is a sobering reminder of preventable workplace dangers,” Nonn said.
He said his office worked diligently to find the causes of fatalities on the job and to take measures to prevent future fatalities.
“We give voice to the departed, and we try to give answers to the survivors,” Nonn said. “We want to make sure that (workplace accident) doesn’t happen again.”
Nonn said he also wanted his office to help make sure that those who die in on-the-job accidents are never forgotten. “By all of us being here today, we let them know they did not die in vain,” he said.
VOTE FOR WORKER
Jeff Ezra, an assistant state’s attorney in Madison County, said much still could be done by workers at the local level to improve workplace conditions and protect workers’ rights. “Vigilance — that’s the key word,” he said.
He urged people to get educated about local politics and vote for candidates who are friendly to Labor.
“We have that ability… and you can start here locally,” Ezra said. “Instead of trickle down (help), we can make it trickle up, with our votes and our actions.”
EVERY WORKER RETURN HOME SAFE
Dustin Miller of the OSHA office in Fairview Heights noted that the office has only six investigators for workplace safety issues throughout 39 counties of southern Illinois. “It’s a huge undertaking,” he said. “But we are committed to safety on the job.”
Miller said his office works closely with local unions and other Labor organizations to do its job. He added that OSHA’s mission boiled down to this: “Every American worker, every work day, should return home at the end of the day safe and unharmed.”
The memorial service included the placing of roses at the base of the Workers Memorial Statue and a bagpiper playing “Amazing Grace.”
Madison County Auditor Rick Faccin and County Clerk Debbie Ming-Mendoza read the names of more than 140 men and women who have died on the job over the years in Madison County while a bell sounded for each name.
The Workers Memorial in Gordon F. Moore park was erected and dedicated in 1994 by officers and members of the Greater Madison County Federation of Labor. Union members also donated their time and talents to build roadways, ball fields, soccer fields, tennis courts and electrical systems at the park.