At 11am this morning the world stopped to recognize International Workers Memorial Day (April 28) and remember the tens of thousands of workers who die on the job every year and especially those who have died this year from COVID-19. We at the Healthy Work Campaign also recognize the hundreds of thousands of workers who die yearly from preventable chronic illnesses related to work stressors, including hypertension and CVD, as well as suicides and opioid overdose, the deaths of despair. This year thousands of workers have already fallen ill or died from COVID-19 contracted while at work. Health care workers, grocery workers, meat packers and transit workers have fallen ill or died because of inadequate Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), inadequate social distancing in the workplace, and a lack of social protections such as paid sick or family leave that might have encouraged workers to stay at home rather than come to work sick. Many people of color are over-represented in these jobs, now considered essential “front line” occupations, and sadly we see the case and mortality rates for coronavirus are particularly high among Latinos and African Americans.

OSHA is missing in action, with no standard or regulations legally requiring employers to protect worker health and safety during this pandemic, its all up to individual companies or workplaces, as well as workers and unions. But while the federal response to providing sufficient PPE has been missing in the United States, some state and local jurisdictions, labor unions, worker centers and OSH groups have been fighting tirelessly to protect the health and safety of workers. We can be proud of those fighting for healthy work especially in times such as these. Our partner WorkSafeCA has issued their annual report Dying at Work in California 2020 and we join them to “Mourn the Dead and Fight for the Living” this Workers Memorial Day.

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