Public gathering in Salem observes Workers Memorial Day
SALEM — The family members filled chairs arranged in rows near the Fallen Workers Memorial.
One by one, labor, government, and religious officials approached a lectern. They faced the grieving family members. They spoke of lives cut short, of heartbreak, of systemic failures, and the unfinished project of making Oregon workplaces safer and healthier.
They did so as part of the Workers Memorial Day observance, held outside the Labor and Industries Building in Salem. “No job is worth the cost of a life,” said Governor Kate Brown, who read a proclamation marking April 28 as Workers Memorial Day.
More than 70 people gathered for the event, during which state Representative Tiffany Mitchell and Labor Commissioner Val Hoyle read aloud the names of 50 Oregonians who died on the job in 2018.
The ceremony served as a remembrance and as a call to reinvigorate efforts to send workers home safe to their families and friends at the end of every work day.
The Rev. Richard Davis of the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Salem led an invocation and moment of silence. He urged attendees to “labor together to deconstruct the human-made hells” we create through such evils as greed and intolerance.
At one point during the ceremony, no one spoke. Only the sounds of “Amazing Grace” filled the air, as members of the Tualatin Valley Fire & Rescue Pipe and Drums took hold of the moment.
Although the ceremony was a time to grieve together, Michael Wood, administrator for Oregon Occupational Safety and Health (OSHA), said grief wasn’t enough. “We need to be a little angry, because it doesn’t need to happen,” he said, noting that we know how to prevent death in the workplace.
Wood said we must go forward and fight harder for the living so that fewer families must grieve in the future. “And I promise,” he said, “to do better, with new conviction and with new commitment.”
Tom Chamberlain, president of AFL-CIO, which coordinated the ceremony, made the event’s opening and closing remarks. As the ceremony ended, Chamberlain said he hoped “someday soon” there would be no list of names, no names to be read aloud.
The names of Oregonians who died on the job in 2018:
Soilo Bustillos Garcia
Hector Rodarte Roldan
Arturo Toral Pacheco