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On Workers Memorial Day, Honoring Those We’ve Lost

When you grow up in a blue-collar community and work construction like I did, people you know get hurt, sick, and lose their lives on the job. And it’s such a hard thing for everyone. A loved one leaves the house in the morning, like any other day — but then they don’t come home. Instead, the phone rings. And instantly, a family is shattered, and a community is consumed by grief.

On Workers’ Memorial Day, we honor the working people who lost their lives on the job and mourn with the families and friends left behind.

Workplace injuries and illnesses are entirely preventable.  And employers have a legal – and moral – responsibility to do what they can do to prevent workplace hazards from taking the lives of those just showing up to do their jobs. We have to do better.

Not a single, solitary worker should ever lose their life, get injured or contract a serious illness on the job, and not a single family should ever get that call. That’s my belief, our department’s commitment, and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s mission of ensuring every worker returns home safe at the end of the day. We owe it to the fallen workers, we owe it to their families, we owe it to those laboring today all across the nation, and we owe it to future generations.

Mary Harris ‘Mother’ Jones once said, we remember the dead, and we fight for the living. Today and every day that call to arms holds true for our nation’s workers and their families. Because a safe workplace isn’t a privilege; it’s every worker’s right.

Marty Walsh is the secretary of labor. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram at  @SecMartyWalsh.

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