Labor rights advocates remember people killed on the job on Workers’ Memorial Day
FARGO, N.D. (KVRR) – Union leaders, members and workers honor the 18 people killed on the job in North Dakota last year and those killed while working in Minnesota.
Carnations are placed in remembrance of those killed on the job in 2021.
Workers Memorial Day is recognized on April 28th, the day the Occupational Safety and Health Act went into effect in 1971.
The somber yet hopeful memorial has a simple message.
“Every worker has the fundamental right to a safe job,” North Dakota AFL-CIO President Landis Larson said.
The past two years have been difficult for those working in many fields.
“The pandemic has also shown us the weaknesses of our laws and workplace safety agencies that were designed to ensure workers are protected,” Larson explained.
The AFL-CIO says one of seven workplace deaths are from violence. It’s something we’ve seen locally. Prosecutors say in November, 35-year-old Anthony Reese, Junior of Moorhead shot and killed 43-year-old Richard Pittman, his girlfriend, 32-year-old April Carbone, and their unborn child at Melet Plastics in Fargo. It happened after Reese got into an altercation with Pittman while fixing a piece of machinery. Reese has been charged with three counts of murder.
Labor leaders say a federal workplace standard is needed to protect workers from injuries and deaths in the workplace.
“The top priority for government and businesses should be protecting working peoples’ lives. Unfortunately, we see time and time again that from North Dakota’s government and business leaders, this is not the case,” Larson said.
Democratic-NPL State Senator Merrill Piepkorn says one issue for workers in North Dakota is its right-to-work laws. They guarantee no worker can be forced to join or pay fees to a labor union.
“Unions have not been very popular and employers have been reluctant to hire union workers. The Legislature, we can’t force people to have unions, but we certainly could encourage people to organize for their own good,” Piepkorn said.
The AFL-CIO ranked North Dakota 48th and Minnesota 8th for workplace deaths in 2020.