Stolen Lives Cannot Be Recovered

Maria E. Gutierrez |

On April 28, Interfaith Worker Justice, Instituto del Progreso Latino, OSHA Region 5, and the University of Illinois at Chicago School of Public Health, joined efforts and prayers to honor all those workers that have died as a consequence of what they do for a living. In a room with more than 75 people of various ages, from high school students to adult workers, we heard with deep sadness that there were 4,628 fatalities in the workplace in 2012, out of which 748 were Hispanic/Latino workers. During the first three months of 2014, 235 workers were killed on the job, 19 of which lived in Illinois. In addition to fatal injuries, hundreds of workers die from illnesses caused by their job.

Following the teachings of Mother Jones, on this day we pray for all those victims and to honor them we reinforce our fight for safer workplaces to protect the living.

As advocates for worker’s rights, we often emphasize the dignity and respect that every person deserves, but on International Workers Memorial Day, we reflect of some employers' lack of respect for human life itself. Occupational fatalities are crimes against workers. One death in the workplace is one too many!

Last year, the owner of Black Mag LLC in Colebrook, N.H. was found guilty of manslaughter and sentenced him five to ten years in prison for willful actions and careless attention to safety that caused an explosion killing two workers at the plant.

“The employer recklessly ignored basic safety measures that would have protected their lives," OSHA's Dr. David Michaels said. "His criminal conviction and sentence won’t bring these men back to life, but it will keep him from putting workers' lives in peril. And it should drive home to employers this message: Worker safety can never be sacrificed for the benefit of production, and workers’ lives are not—and must never be—considered part of the cost of doing business.”

Every preventable fatality is a life stolen for the benefit of production. Because stolen lives cannot be recovered we must join forces to ensure safer workplaces for all workers and to ensure that employers are held accountable for the safety of their employees. I firmly reject the concept that safety is not profitable. A human life has no price and there is no product or service worth the lives of our brothers and sisters.