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Reflecting on Workers' Memorial Day: Honoring Lives Lost, Renewing Our Commitment to Workplace Safety

Arizona AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer/Executive Director Fred Yamashita
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As we approach Workers' Memorial Day on Sunday, April 28th, the Arizona AFL-CIO reflects on the profound significance of this day. Today, Labor came together in solidarity at Teamsters Local 104 to remember and honor the lives of workers who have tragically lost their lives due to work-related hazards or illnesses.


Originating from the advocacy of the labor movement for safer workplaces, Workers' Memorial Day became a nationally recognized day of remembrance in 1970, coinciding with the passage of the Occupational Safety and Health Act. Since then, it has served as a reminder of the ongoing struggle for workplace safety and the necessity of protecting workers' rights.


This year's breakfast carried particular weight as we not only commemorated those we have lost but also reaffirmed our commitment to fighting for safer working conditions. We had guest speakers Guy Testini, Executive Director of the Industrial Commission of Arizona, and Harris Harrigan, Arizona State Director of SEIU, who spoke about the crucial role of the ICA in ensuring workplace safety and the significance of recent legislative victories such as the Phoenix Heat Ordinance. Harris also spoke on the ongoing work that remains to be done by legislators to further protect workers across our state.


As part of our commemoration, the Teamsters honored a beloved member, Juan Carlos Mendoza, also known as Sapo by his close friends and family. Sapo tragically lost his life while on the job, reminding us of the real and lasting consequences of inadequate workplace safety measures.


The AFL-CIO's recent report, "Death on the Job: The Toll of Neglect," emphasizes the urgent need for action. The report finds that workers of color are dying on the job at increasingly higher rates. Black workers’ job fatality rate is the highest it’s been in nearly 15 years, while Latino workers continue to face the greatest risk of dying on the job compared to all other workers.


AFL-CIO President Liz Shuler highlighted the report's findings, stating, "The alarming disparities in workplace fatalities among workers of color are unacceptable, symptomatic of deeply ingrained racial inequity, and the need to pay increased attention to the dangerous industries that treat workers as disposable." Secretary-Treasurer Fred Redmond echoed this by emphasizing the importance of prioritizing racial equity in the fight for worker justice.


Our Workers' Memorial Day event at Teamsters Local 104 was not just a moment of remembrance but a call to action. Together, we reaffirm our dedication to the ongoing struggle for safer workplaces and stronger protections for all workers. Juan Carlos Mendoza, along with countless others, will forever remain in our hearts as we continue this important work.