If there's one, sure-fire way to get in full-blown rally mode for the official kickoff of APHA's 140th Annual Meeting, it's going to a summit filled with workers' right advocates. Luckily, APHA's Occupational Health and Safety Section helped organize such a gathering today at the Moscone Convention Center.
I only had the chance to listen to the opening speaker, but it was enough to send this blogger straight into social justice mode — especially since the speaker was Linda Rae Murray, past APHA president. The 2012 National Safety and Health Policy Summit, presented by the National Council for Occupational Safety and Health, kicked off this morning and will conclude this evening with a presentation from David Michaels, director of the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
During her impassioned speech, Murray called on attendees to stand up and shout loud on behalf of workers, noting that in 2010 more than 4,600 workers died on the job — that's about 13 deaths every single day. And thousands more workers died due to occupational illnesses and millions more were injured on the job. Murray noted that "this crude expression of the workplace doesn't fall equally" — immigrant workers, in particular, suffer a greater burden of workplace-related illness and injury.
"Most of the time, workers die quietly; no one notices but their family, their friends and their fellow workers," she told the crowd. "It's heartbreaking...we know these stories, the question is what do we do about it?"
Build a movement and remember our history, Murray said. She noted that from the end of WWII to the late 1970s, the nation experienced an increase in unionization, jobs and wages as well as an improvement in health and safety conditions. Since the 1970s, however, we've been going in reverse — "workers are under attack," she said.
"No matter who wins next week, we need to understand that our work cannot stop...an injury to one is an injury to all," Murray said. "When we come together and organize and fight for the rights of all people, we win. ...This country was built by workers and it has to be a country for workers."
Above from top to bottom, a summit attendee holds up a T-shirt commemorating the 2012 Workers' Memorial Day and featuring an illustration of the Ramirez brothers, who died after inhaling hydrogen sulfide gas while cleaning an underground storm drain system in California; and opening summit speaker Linda Rae Murray. Photos by Kim Krisberg