Shining a Light on Safety for Workers’ Memorial Day

Charlie Cash

March 19, 2024

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"It is the responsibility of management to provide safe working conditions in all present and future installations and to develop a safe working force.” Do you happen to recognize that sentence? It is the first line of Section 1 of Article 14 Safety and Health.

When I first started at the Post Office in the mid 1990s, safety was not the first thing on my mind when I went to work. In hindsight, it should have been something I took more seriously while I worked on the floor. Like hundreds of thousands of other postal employees in those 20 years, I too sustained a workplace injury.

In Fiscal Year (FY) 2023, 44,999 postal employees have sustained injuries.1 However, I must qualify that number. I believe that it is significantly more than that. This does not account for the probable thousands of unreported workplace injuries. Also, in FY2023, 12 postal employees lost their lives due to workplace injuries/accidents.2 The Postal Service consistently has some of the highest—if not the highest—number of injuries and deaths in civilian federal service. It is not an overstatement that the Postal Service is a dangerous place to work.

Each postal worker, regardless of craft, work location, or duty, is entitled to a safe work environment. This includes freedom from hostile and harassing work environments. Management bears the responsibility to provide safe working environments, and each employee, union officer, or steward must hold management accountable when they fail to provide it.

Each year, on April 28, the labor movement recognizes Workers Memorial Day. It is held on the date that the Occupational Safety and Health Act went into effect—April 28, 1973. This law and the formation of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) was a step towards safer workplaces and providing basic safety protections to workers. But the laws are nowhere near as strong as they need to be. As referenced by the AFL-CIO, “…the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) lack the resources they need to protect workers. Many employers and workers never see OSHA in their workplaces. Penalties are still too low to be a deterrent. Corporations exploit these weaknesses and create environments where workers are not adequately protected when they speak out against unsafe working conditions. Black, Latino and immigrant workers are disproportionately killed on the job. Workers still cannot freely join a union without retaliation from their employers.”3

Each year, on Worker’s Memorial Day, we – the workers of the world – attempt to shine a light on the more than 300 workers around the world killed every day on the job. Nearly 5,000 workers are killed on the job each year in the U.S. – one of the safest countries to work. We, as workers, demand better laws to protect ourselves, participate in vigils to remember those who have died, and lead job actions in support of safer workplaces.

You deserve to come to work, put in a fair day’s work for a fair day’s pay, and come home to your families free of injury or occupational disease. Our contract demands safety. I am challenging all of you to demand safer workplaces not only on April 28, but every day. Use the processes that the APWU and the USPS have in place. Use your PS Form 1767 to put the Postal Service on notice of safety violations. Use the grievance process to enforce Article 14. Protect yourselves by being alert to workplace hazards. I want you to go home uninjured, you want to go home uninjured, and your loved ones feel the same.

Solidarity! ■


1The Department of Labor provided this number to the APWU on February 5, 2024.
2 As above.
3 AFL-CIO Workers Memorial Day website conferences-and-events/workers-memorial-day

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