On Feb. 1, 1968, Memphis, Tenn. sanitation workers Echol Cole and Robert Walker took shelter from heavy rain in their truck.
When it malfunctioned, they were crushed to death.
Their deaths sparked a strike among their co-workers that defined not only labor justice, but racial justice.
It all centers on one basic tenet of the labor movement: all workers should be able to go home safe.
Fifty years later, unions continue to play a major role in workplace safety and health, through legislation, advocacy and technical expertise.
Our goal is to ensure that no workers die or become injured on the job; that we can all go home safely.
While we have made great strides improving workplace safety, we have so much more to do.
At our recent Statewide Conference on Occupational Safety and Health, we remembered fallen workers, including three of our own brothers who passed away on the job since our last conference: Donald Schultz, Stephen Giorgio III and Gregory Eliopolous.
Their deaths were preventable, and we need to work harder to ensure that the list of our fallen members never grows by another name.
Unfortunately, there are anti-union forces out there who are willing to cut corners on equipment, training and procedures to increase their profits. This corporate greed puts workers at risk.
We can have all the conversations we want about protecting wages, benefits, health care, and our retirement security, but all of it really means nothing if we lose the power to push our employers to protect us properly on the job.
Remember, the most important thing that unions ultimately do is to ensure your employer is keeping you as safe as possible on the job.
There IS something you can do to help ensure your safety and well-being in your workplace. You can remain an active member of CSEA. There is strength (and safety!) in numbers. If every one of us remains in the union, our strength will let us continue to advocate for our safety on the job.
When these anti-union groups contact you and your co-workers, and try to weaken us all by getting you to quit, tell them you are sticking with our union! Strong unions mean safer workplaces.