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For immediate release: Monday, April, 28, 2008
Contact: Matt Losak, 301-431-5453

National Labor College Establishes National Workers Memorial on Campus; Honors Fallen Workers

Silver Spring, Maryland — In a moving candle lighting ceremony in honor of Workers Memorial Day, more than 100 union leaders and members of the National Labor College community paid tribute to the more than 5,000 workers killed annually on the job, the 4.1 million who are injured and the 50,000 who die due to occupational diseases. Workers Memorial Day is held on April 28th each year marking the passing of the Occupational Safety and Health Act by Congress more than three decades ago.

NLC president William E. Scheuerman, United Mine Workers of America president Cecil Roberts and AFL-CIO executive vice president Arlene Holt Baker led the traditional candle lighting ceremony where the names of fallen workers and the circumstances of their deaths are read aloud.  Historical tragedies such as the 1911 Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire in which 146 women lost their lives and led to historic workplace safety legislation were also acknowledged. Following the ceremony, college and labor officials offered remarks at a symbolic ground breaking for a new national Workers Memorial. A symbolic ground-breaking was held indoors due to the inclement weather.

“Today we remember the dead, but we also remember the living by working every day to strengthen workplace place safety and health standards,” said Baker.

The memorial will be located in the center of the campus and will feature a plaza of bricks surrounded by granite benches and pavers. Supporters will sponsor the bricks, pavers and benches with the names of workers who have lost their lives on the job.

“I can think of no more appropriate place for a permanent workers memorial than on the campus of the college that the labor movement calls its home for learning, ideas and reverence for all that is union,” said William E. Scheuerman, NLC’s president.

"This will be the only place in America where workers from all industries, all crafts, all walks of life who are killed on the job are memorialized,” said Cecil Robert, president of the United Mine Workers and chair of the AFL-CIO committee on health and safety.  “We build this memorial to honor and remember them, and to remind us of the work that still remains to be done to make America's workplaces as safe and healthy as possible.”

In addition to the ground-breaking, the college hosted a panel discussion: Gaining Benefits and Compensation for Workers Who are Ill from Rescue and Clean-up at the World Trade Center  featuring prominent speakers including Peg Seminario, AFL-CIO’s director for occupational safety and health; Kathy Kirkland, executive director, the Association Occupational and Environmental Clinics; John Graham, who was featured in Michael Moore’s documentary “Sicko,” and was a rescue and clean-up worker after and has contracted a serious lung disease. Cecil Roberts, president of the United Mineworkers of America and one of the lead sponsors of the memorial also participated on the panel. The panel was led by NLC professor Ruth Ruttenberg.

About the National Labor College

Established as a training center by AFL-CIO in 1969 to strengthen union member education and organizing skills, the NLC is now the nation's only accredited higher education institution devoted exclusively to educating union leaders, members and activists. The NLC became a degree granting college in 1997. The college is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education, an independent, regional accrediting body recognized by the U.S. Department of Education.