U.S. labor leaders are dedicating a national memorial to honor the more than 5,000 workers who lose their lives on the job each year.
The National Workers Memorial will be located on the campus of the National Labor College, just outside the nation’s capitol in Silver Spring, Maryland.
Labor Secretary Hilda Solis joined union leaders on Tuesday to break ground on the memorial, which is expected to be completed by September.
William Scheuerman, president of the labor college, said the site will capture the sacrifices regular working people have made.
“We have monuments to everything else, what about the ordinary person, the person who is not a hero, goes to work one day and just doesn’t come home anymore?” Scheuerman said.
The memorial’s design features a circular brick plaza surrounded by granite benches and brick pavers engraved with the names of fallen workers. For $125, sponsors can purchase a brick engraved with the name and occupation of a worker who died on the job or from work-related injuries. Anyone can buy a brick.
AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Richard Trumka bought the first brick in honor of his father, Frank, who died of black lung disease after working as a coal miner in Pennsylvania.
Some of the granite benches will be contributed by unions in memory of historic workplace tragedies, such as the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire of 1911 in New York City, which killed 146 workers. The incident led to passage of major workplace safety legislation.
Design and construction of the memorial is running about $450,000, with most of the money raised from unions and a large donation from Baltimore Orioles owner Peter Angelos, a lawyer who has represented workers injured by exposure to asbestos.
The memorial will “remind us of the work that still remains to be done to make America’s workplaces as safe and healthy as possible,” said Cecil Robert, president of the United Mine Workers.
The new memorial was dedicated on Workers Memorial Day, which commemorates workers killed or injured in the past year. Union leaders have called for greater enforcement of workplace safety laws under President Barack Obama and tougher civil and criminal penalties for violations of the Occupational Safety and Health Act.
On the Net:
National Labor College: http://www.nlc.edu/
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