Media Center

Apr 28

ATU renews call for safety culture at all workplaces on Workers’ Memorial Day

“The early 20th Century labor activist, Mother Jones, once famously said, ‘Pray for the dead, and fight like hell for the living’.  Workers met untimely deaths in her day for a variety of reasons.  They would be killed trying to organize labor unions; they could die because they had no access to health care; and they could lose their lives due to unsafe working conditions.

“Conditions have improved since passage of the Occupational Safety and Health Act in 1970, but America still has a long way to go before it can say that workers are truly safe on the job.

“4,820 workers were killed on the job in 2014, and an estimated 50,000 died from occupational diseases – resulting in a loss of 150 workers each day from hazardous working conditions.

“Nearly 3.8 million work-related injuries and illnesses were reported, but many injuries are not reported. The true toll is likely two to three times greater, or 7.6 million to 11.4 million injuries each year.

“Transit systems across America have been starved of the funds necessary to perform critical maintenance and repairs, creating unsafe work environments. A recent maintenance audit of Washington, DC’s Circulator buses revealed that 95% of buses were so defective that they should have been pulled from service. Workers have perished simply repairing rail lines, and mechanics have been killed trying to maintain aging equipment.

“In 2014, ATU lost a brother, Jake Schwab, in Erie, PA, who died when an engine he was working on exploded in his face. Jake was working with the wrong tools on an unfamiliar bus from another agency in a garage that workers said had no safety culture.

“This is unacceptable.

“As we mourn the passing of our co-workers who have lost their lives simply doing their jobs, ATU renews its commitment to the goal of zero preventable accidents in the transit industry, and demands the adoption of an actively pursued and continually reviewed safety culture at every workplace.”