Prayers Today on Worker Memorial Day

Maria E. Gutierrez |

Worker advocates are steeped in the debate to bring about real immigration reform. The possibility of a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, work authorization, driver licenses and other essential benefits are on the table. Safer workplaces is also a core element to bringing about real reform that honors the contributions of our immigrant brothers and sisters… and is a matter of life or death for thousands of hard working immigrants in America.

The American dream for some immigrant workers fatally ends on their first day at work. Irresponsible employers and unsafe workplaces are the main reason behind those deaths. In 2011, 4,609 workers died in on the job, 16 percent of those fatalities were foreign-born workers. A broken immigration system leaves workers unprotected and allows unethical employers to abuse these workers to fatal extremes.

Hundreds of the fatalities are reported as "NN" (an unidentified immigrant worker that dies in the workplace), while family members wait in their home country with no knowledge of the tragedy. Many fatality reports are recording with sparse information about the victim such as: “male” and “cause of death: fall from roof”

In 2013, a Raani Corporation worker, 50 years-old Carlos Centeno, died after falling on a 500-gallon tank filled with acid solution, as reported by Chip Mitchell on WBEZ. According to the Occupational Safety and Heath Administration of the Department of Labor, employers are required to protect workers from known hazards. The argument “he knew or reasonably should have known of the possible risks of personal injury” should apply to employer. Deaths in the workplace should never be explained as involuntary suicide as Raani Corporation put it by saying: “by voluntarily undertaking to work with such substances, [Centeno] elected to accept such possible risks.”

But not only immigrant workers die in the workplace; from the 4,690 fatalities in the U.S. in 2010, 774 were foreign-born workers.  According to the Occupational Safety Health Administration regulations, employers are required to protect ALL workers from known hazards.

Let’s join hands in prayer on Workers Memorial Day today for all those workers whose lives are taken by unethical employers and unsafe workplaces. Let’s keep up the fight to protect all workers from wrongful occupational injuries and fatalities. Let’s keep up the fight to make employers accountable for those deaths.

Click here to download a Litany in memory of those who have died on the job and in hope for strong workplace safety regulations and enforcement for the safety of immigrant and native workers all across the U.S.

Click here to download a Prayer remembering those who have died on the job, especially our immigrant brothers and sisters.