Members and supporters of New Labor, the New Jersey Work Environment Council (WEC), and allied organizations, collectively demanded “Safe workplaces for all, free of retaliation” marched on April 23 in New Brunswick today to honor workers who have been killed or become sick or injured on the job.
The march, with coffins, handmade signs and chants to remember fallen workers, began and ended at Anshe Emeth Memorial Temple in New Brunswick. It is one of many events taking place around the country and around the globe as part of Workers’ Memorial Day, which brings together workers, families, unions, and allies to honor those affected by unsafe working conditions and to advocate for better protections in the workplace.
This past year, workers in New Jersey died in their workplaces from causes such as falls, blunt force trauma, being crushed, stuck by, covid-19, drowning, and gunshot. Many workplace deaths may have been prevented had there been a right to refuse unsafe work, effective training, or a workplace health and safety committee.
Demands from participants at the march included safe workplaces for ALL, worker driven co-enforcement of workplace safety, protection against heat exposures, and the right to refuse unsafe work without retaliation and labor protections for workers who speak out about unsafe working conditions, including Deferred Action protection.
Several testimonies highlighted how workers starting the process for deferred action can create a culture of safety in workplaces by assuring protections for those who make complaints.
“I got injured on the job and my employer didn’t do anything and then fired me. So we are taking action so there aren’t any more retaliation for demanding better conditions. We are working for deferred action so that our voices are never ignored when it comes to the workplace,” said Isabel Cruz of New Labor.
Another major theme that marchers highlighted was that health and safety rights need to be upheld through organizing and pointed to what Rutgers union and the community have accomplished.
“Safe workplaces are workplaces where we are respected. They’re workplaces where we as workers have our voices heard AND where we as workers can enforce employer responsibility for working conditions. And getting respected means organizing to win deferred action for workers who make complaints, or making sure employers that impact our community, like Rutgers, are held to account!”, said Louis Kimmel, Executive Director of New Labor
New Labor, a membership-based organization of largely low-wage Latino workers that educates, organizes and fights for better working conditions. For more information, please visit www.newlabor.org.
New Jersey Work Environment Council, an alliance of 70 labor, community, and environmental organizations advocating for safe, secure jobs and a healthy, sustainable environment.
For more information, please visit www.njwec.org.