Labor Leaders, Workers Commemorate Those Who Lost Their Lives on the Job
North Dakota Ranks Fifth Worst in the Nation for Worker Fatalities
FARGO, N.D. — Labor leaders and workers from the North Dakota AFL-CIO and Northern Plains United Labor Council gathered to commemorate workers who lost their lives on the job.
“When you’re not related to these people, when you don’t know these people, they tend to be viewed as numbers and statistics,” said Waylon Hedegaard, the president of North Dakota AFL-CIO. “But in truth, these are all some mother’s son, some father’s daughter.”
Flowers were placed a wreath in honor of each person who lost their life on the job in North Dakota and Minnesota last year.
The union says North Dakota ranks fifth worst in the nation for worker fatalities.
“The biggest mistake industries make is putting people in places without them being able to recognize what’s dangerous and what isn’t,” Hedegaard said.
According to the most recent data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 28 workers were killed in North Dakota in 2016, and many more have gotten diseases on the job.
“Near-misses need to be looked at as opportunities. You had an opportunity to make the job safer and to ignore it is a huge mistake,” Hedegaard said.
Hedegaard says deregulation makes the union’s members very nervous.
“That’s what keeps workers alive. It slows us down, it forces compliance to safety standards, it limits exposure to certain chemicals,” he said.
The union partnered with the fire department to provide a lifesaving skills class before the memorial.
“Training, training, training. You can’t have too much safety training,” Hedegaard said.
“When it comes to worker safety, sometimes what you think is ‘just how we do business’, but it doesn’t seem right, people don’t speak up,” said Capt. Ron Guggisberg of the Fargo Fire Department.
“[Workers] have the right to refuse to do any job they feel is dangerous. They have a right to training on how to avoid those dangers,” Hedegaard said.
“If you see something that’s not safe, even if it’s unpopular, you need to let the right people know and get it fixed,” Guggisberg said.
Workers Memorial Day is this Saturday and it takes place in many cities across the country.