Workers’ Memorial Service Remembers the Fallen

At the annual IAM Workers’ Memorial Ceremony to honor fellow members who passed away from on-the-job accidents or job-related illnesses, IAM President Tom Buffenbarger expressed condolences to the families of fallen members on behalf of all IAM members

Dozens of IAM members gathered at the William W. Winpisinger Center’s Workers’ Memorial in honor of the 23rd Annual Observance of Workers’ Memorial Day.

“Once again, we’re gathered here in this special and sacred place to pause and reflect upon the lives and contributions of our fallen IAM brothers and sisters,” said IAM International President Tom Buffenbarger. “We’re reminded that life is very short. May we as union brothers and sisters re-commit ourselves to the fight for a safe workforce, for a safe environment and for the laws that respect and protect workers and all those who toil.”

Among this year’s list of fallen IAM members are Robert Demarco of Local 2559, who was killed on the job while clearing a bag jam on the bag belt system for U.S. Airways; Jerry Milligan of Local 839, who was critically injured in a fall; and Donald Gadley of Local 1580, whose tragic accident on August 5, 2011 was the first fatality in his facility in over 70 years. Also honored this year are Dwayne Lieu of Local 837A, who died from lung cancer, Michael “Mickey” F. Hughes, Assistant General Chairperson of District 141, who died of cancer; Glenn Middleton of Local 1979, who passed away from a heart attack; and Michael John Schmitt, Jr., of Local 4, who died suddenly on his way to work.

This year’s ceremony also marked the 41st anniversary of the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA), a law that codifies every worker’s right to a safe job.

“In the U.S. alone, over 45,147 people were killed by traumatic injuries at the workplace this past year, with another estimated 50,000 additional workers who died from occupational-related diseases,” said IAM Safety and Health Director Michael Flynn. “In our nation’s capital today, where there is such political polarization, a concerted effort and assault is taking place by a Republican-majority to prevent OSHA from issuing any new protections. Our presence here today should make it clear to all that worker protections are still needed.Improvements can always be made, but without enforcement, any advancements made since the 1970 enactment of OSHA will slowly be destroyed.”

The names of each fallen IAM member were inscribed on bricks, read aloud, and added to the hundreds that surround the Winpisinger’s lighthouse memorial.