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Family Members Help Mark Workers' Memorial Day 2018

Jeremy Sprinkle
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New Report Names North Carolina the 27th Most Dangerous Place for Workers

The mother of one of 174 people who died on the job in North Carolina in 2016 spoke to reporters and community members at a Workers’ Memorial Day service outside the Old State Capitol last Friday where attendees rang a memorial bell 174 times and called on the N.C. Department of Labor to do more to prevent workplace fatalities and to show respect to the victims’ families. Commissioner Cherie Berry declined to attend or send her representative from NCDOL.

Ringing the bell 174 times in honor of the 174 NC workers who died on the job in 2016.

— NC State AFL-CIO (@NCStateAFLCIO) April 27, 2018


Tell NCDOL to Attend Workers' Memorial Day 2019!

Michelle Rosoff’s 17-year-old daughter, Rachel, a senior at Enloe High School, was electrocuted and drowned on Labor Day weekend in the community pool where she worked as a lifeguard. Flanked by faith and labor leaders, community members, and Rachel’s own siblings and cousins, most holding photos and signs listing the known names of the dead, Michelle choked back tears as she recounted a life full of promise that ended at work.

Watch the recorded Facebook Live broadcast of the 2018 Workers' Memorial Day service.

“Rachel was excited about going to college and dreamt about one day being able to write for Saturday Night Live using her two gifts of writing and a great sense of humor,” said Ms. Rosoff. “She was beyond exceptional in many ways and had so much to offer - and [she] simply died going to work. That’s it. She wanted to make money and be independent, and, unfortunately, it ended up fatal.”

Michelle Rosoff, mother of Rache Rosoff, a 17-year-old lifeguard and Enloe HS student who was electrocuted on the job in 2016

— NC State AFL-CIO (@NCStateAFLCIO) April 27, 2018

According to a new report by the AFL-CIO, North Carolina had the 27th highest rate of workplace deaths in 2016. This analysis, based on data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, shows that the 174 workers’ lives lost due to on-the-job injuries resulted in a rate of 3.7 deaths per 100,000 workers -- higher than the national average of 3.6. Making matters worse, North Carolina has more workers and more workplaces, but the N.C. Department of Labor employs fewer Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) inspectors today than it did 10 years ago -- so few, in fact, that it would take almost a century -- 96 years -- to inspect every workplace just once.

Read "Death on the Job: The Toll of Neglect."

“The Department of Labor inspects elevators and amusement rides annually, but we can get to every worksite just once a century. That is unacceptable. We must do better,” said MaryBe McMillan, President of the North Carolina State AFL-CIO.

Commissioner of Labor Cherie Berry, whose face appears on those inspection certificates has never held or attended a Workers’ Memorial Day service and declined to appear or send a representative this year despite being personally invited by faith leaders and family members after the service last year. At the end of the service this year, attendees marched from the capitol to NCDOL to invite Commissioner Berry to attend next year.

At the Worker’s Memorial Day remembering the 174 lives that were lost on the job in 2016 and @NCDOL didn’t show up, how many workers have to die before you show up?

— CarolinaJews4Justice (@NCJews4Justice) April 27, 2018

Workers’ Memorial Day is an international day of remembrance for all those who have died while working for a better life. Nationally, 5,190 American workers died on the job in 2016, an increase from 4,836 deaths the previous year. Another estimated 50,000 to 60,000 died from occupational diseases, meaning approximately 150 workers died on the job each day from preventable, hazardous workplace conditions.

“174 people who didn’t have to die—those deaths should haunt the DOL, they should haunt all of us but what should haunt us even more is if we do nothing and more workers die,” said Ms. McMillan. “On this Workers’ Memorial Day, our message to our Commissioner is clear: Do not let these workers die in vain. Do more to prevent deaths on the job. Do more because workers’ lives depend on it.”

Mary Johnson Rockers of the Farmworkers Advocacy Network sings “Bread and Roses” at #WorkersMemorialDay event. “As we go marching marching the people will hear our call”

— NC Justice Center (@ncjustice) April 27, 2018

Press Clips

Activists honor workplace death victims, call for more protections

Mom speaks at rally on workplace fatalities in honor of daughter who was electrocuted while working as lifeguard

Advocates call for better workplace safety oversight