Danny Donohue: Fighting for safety, fighting for our lives

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As Workers’ Memorial Day approaches on April 28, we sadly add yet another name to the list: Dennis “Matt” Howe.

Our brother Matt was a highway maintenance worker at the New York State Department of Transportation who died after a collision in a highway work zone.

His death highlights how so many of you put yourselves at risk just to do your jobs. Working on or near traveled roads, including in highway work zones, are among the most potentially hazardous conditions our members face, but there isn’t a worksite anywhere that’s completely free of potential risk of injury or death.

Whenever an incident like this occurs, among the expressions of sadness, we also hear voices of outrage, such as CSEA isn’t doing enough to protect workers or unions aren’t doing enough to ensure their members are safe in their workplaces.

Nothing is more important to us than your safety. Fighting to ensure your safety on the job is among the most important work that we do as a union.

However, a union is only as powerful as the voice of its collective members. If all of us as members aren’t willing to come together to push for the protections we deserve, nobody else is going to do it for us.
Worse yet, if we leave the union, we weaken it that much more, our voice gets just that much quieter and our ability to gain anything gets that much harder.

Our union is strong, so we have the resources to fight for our members’ safety, including lobbying for additional worker protections and our union’s Occupational Safety and Health Department, which is investigating the incident that took our brother’s life.

What I’m saying is while we mourn for our brother Matt, and all those who were taken from us too soon due to workplace incidents, we all need to get involved and do our part to ensure that our employers are protecting us on the job through proper training, equipment and practices.
Brothers and sisters, the only way CSEA truly succeeds is when those we go up against hear our collective, unified voices.

We aren’t just the ones at risk either. Our members are also the ones who respond when incidents happen. We’re the ones who provide vital services to our friends, families, neighbors and communities. We’re out there every day keeping people safe and responding when they need help.

Every one of us has value that must be protected, and we can do that if we stand together as one.

As we remember those we have lost, we should renew our commitment to doing our part to make ALL workplaces as safe and healthy as possible. Together, we can make sure no family has to receive the awful news that their loved one isn’t returning home from work.

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