Similar gatherings are taking place in over 90 countries. Thanks to unionized workers and organizations such as the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU), the message of April 28 is being spread around the world.
What few CUPE members know is that if it werent for CUPE and its National Health and Safety Committee, the Day of Mourning may never have been born. The committee recommended the creation of a remembrance day for workers killed or injured on-the-job in 1984. The Canadian Labour Congress and affiliated unions quickly adopted the day across Canada. The American labour movement observed their first workers memorial day in 1989.
Today, different levels of government recognize April 28. The federal government passed legislation in 1991 declaring each April 28 A Day of Remembrance for Workers Killed or Injured at Work. Each year more municipalities recognize the Day of Mourning. In some instances, employers are also participating in the ceremonies that mark April 28. All of this has helped the Day of Mourning grow into what it is today.
But sometimes we tend to forget how or why the day originated. And how and why workers come together at the end of April. April 28 was born of the values and traditions of trade unionists. It was born because of the needless injuries and deaths that happen each and every day, when employers are negligent or governments fail to enforce laws. It was created because of workers continuous struggles for decent, safe working conditions and the recognition of basic human rights.
As we start a new century, its time to restate some of the values unions have stood for in our pursuit of health and safety rights. Unions have led the struggle for improved working conditions, dignity and respect on the job. Unions have obtained laws and protections that help make workplaces safer, and give workers a voice.
Firm in these values, lets make it a goal to see that workers are no longer used as canaries. Lets continue to speak out and work for safer jobs, respect and a better future. Lets work for the day when the caged canary is set free.
Remember that April 28 offers us an opportunity to stand together with the worlds workers, to reaffirm our solidarity and commitment to occupational health and safety and to say clearly to everyone that we mourn for the dead, but fight for the living.