April 2011

From the Officers
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Danger on the Job

April 28 is Workers Memorial Day—the day when thousands of working men and women pay tribute to those who lost their lives in the workplace. This year's theme is "Safe Jobs Save Lives. Our Work's Not Done."

It's a fitting message in these trying times. In the race to undermine worker safety to boost big business' profit margins, anti-worker politicians have their feet squarely on the gas pedal.

The same lawmakers who support hefty tax cuts for the richest Americans recently announced plans to slash $99 million in funding for the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. The cuts would eliminate 20 percent of the department's operating budget and, says IBEW Safety and Health Department Director Jim Tomaseski, "would severely cripple the agency in its mission to provide vital services and ensure employer accountability in all workplaces, including in the most dangerous job classifications."

Under George W. Bush's administration, OSHA became so hobbled by politicians representing big business that its staff was smaller than it was in the 1970s. Underfunding the agency led to an increase in workplace injuries, accidents and deaths in the early- to mid-2000s.

In 2009, President Obama beefed up OSHA, hiring inspectors and compliance specialists—many of whom know firsthand what constitutes safety at work. On-the-job fatalities are on the decline.

IBEW members and our friends in the trades have always been the ones leading the fight for workplace safety because we know what it's like to stare down danger on the job. We build the bridges, wire cities, construct the buildings and supply the power to keep America running. And we are always ready to partner with OSHA and our employers to keep workers safe.

I hope your fighting spirit is strengthened by the stories of brothers and sisters on the front lines of state battles to mobilize for working families. And I hope you and some of your co-workers organize activities in your communities for Workers Memorial Day.

Hold those who died in your hearts. We still have a lot of fighting ahead.


Also: Hill: Wisconsin's Wake-Up Call

Lindell K. Lee
International Secretary-Treasurer