For Immediate Release
April 28, 2022
NC Workers Who Died on the Job Honored at Workers Memorial Day Service in Raleigh
“The best part of me was taken too soon as a result of bad decisions on his employer’s part.”
(Raleigh, NC)—Today local workers, union members, and community leaders gathered outside the North Carolina State Capitol to mark Workers Memorial Day to remember workers who have died or suffered illness or injuries while on the job. Rev. Jennifer Copeland of the NC Council of Churches and Rabbi Eric Solomon of Beth Meyer Synagogue offered prayers for workers and their families. NC Department of Labor Commissioner Josh Dobson and NC State AFL-CIO President MaryBe McMillan pledged to work together to advocate for workplace safety. Crystal Maqueda, wife of the Bonner Bridge Collapse victim last year, spoke of her loss before joining other attendees in taking turns to ring a memorial bell 190 times, once for her husband and 189 other people who died on the job in North Carolina.
“We’re here today to call on some collective power for good,” said Rev. Jennifer Copeland from the NC Council of Churches. “The history of this nation is sometimes rife with stories of companies that put their profits ahead of their workers. By naming aloud those who have died at the hands of collective evil, we redeem their lives for truth and justice so they do not die forgotten.”
Rabbi Eric Solomon with Beth Meyer Synagogue recounted the perilous construction of the Tower of Babel, a story in which members of society mourned falling bricks but not falling workers. “When a society values human beings less than materials, then that society is corrupt to its core. We will not let our country and our state become corrupt like the Tower of Babel because we stand in honor of those who gave their lives simply doing a day’s work.”
“Today we resolve that we must do better because one life lost is one too many, which is why this Workers Memorial Day I stand next to our Labor Commissioner, Josh Dobson, to pledge that we will work together to improve workplace safety,” said North Carolina State AFL-CIO president MaryBe McMillan. “While our two organizations don’t agree on every issue, we do agree it’s best for us to work as partners, not adversaries.”
“Every fatality that comes across my desk I take personally,” said Commissioner Dobson, who pledged to do all he can to eliminate workplace fatalities in North Carolina. “As we move forward together, I believe the best way to keep employees safe at work is to figure out how we can work together with a common purpose and fight like hell for those things we all agree on.”
It was the first time in over 20 years that the North Carolina Department of Labor (NCDOL) participated in the memorial service, prior to which NCDOL published a joint statement by Commissioner Josh Dobson and president McMillan. The statement outlined seven areas of common ground between NCDOL and the NC State AFL-CIO including requesting funds from the N.C. General Assembly to increase compensation for Safety and Health Compliance Officers, filling vacancies and increasing the total number of compliance officer positions, including a bilingual preference on compliance job postings, extending the current six-month statute of limitation on issuing citations, aligning North Carolina’s civil penalties with federal OSHA’s penalty structure, increasing the transparency of NCDOL activities, and continuing open dialogue with worker advocates.
“All working people have the right to a safe job,” the statement concluded. “No family deserves to suffer the grief of a loved one lost prematurely while working for a better life.”
For the final speaker at the service, Crystal Maqueda, that grief is barely a year old.
“I lost my husband of 22 years Jose Armando Maqueda Mejia exactly 1 year and 2 weeks ago on April 14th 2021 when the Bonner Bridge in Oregon Inlet collapsed,” said Maqueda, who attended the Workers Memorial Day service along with members of her family. “This has been the worst roller coaster ride I have ever been on, and for me it’s not over.”
“Armando missed our daughter graduating from college. He will miss our son walking the stage in June. He missed the birth of our first grandson, and he’s missed so much more. He is not just a statistic. He was a man of many talents, and at 42 years old was just in the prime of his life.”
The company her husband worked for, PCL Civil Constructors, was fined $23,210 for two serious workplace safety violations. “That’s chump change for a billion dollar company,” said Maqueda.
“The best part of me was taken too soon as a result of bad decisions on his employer’s part. Bad decisions and cutting corners cost lives, and we owe it to our loved ones and ourselves to do what we can to help prevent another tragic death as we have experienced. We need to fight for higher penalties and fines. We have to send a message to companies that we will not be silenced or ignored.”
Click here to watch recorded video of the 2022 NC Workers Memorial Day Service.
Click here to read Death on the Job: The Toll of Neglect, 2022 by the AFL-CIO for detailed information on workplace fatalities in North Carolina.
Click here to read NCDOL’s 2022 Workers’ Memorial Day Statement.
Contact: Jeremy Sprinkle, 336-255-2711 / firstname.lastname@example.org
The North Carolina State AFL-CIO is the largest association of unions of working people in North Carolina, representing over a hundred thousand members, working together for good jobs, safe workplaces, workers’ rights, consumer protections, and quality public services on behalf of ALL working people. PO Box 10805, Raleigh, NC 27605.