Respect!/¡El Respeto: Workers' Memorial Day March Bringing Community and Respect to Workers

By Amy Barenboim on April 25, 2017

In a room aglow with orange, the New Labor color, a surprisingly large and diverse crowd, gathered.

New Labor, along with other organizations such as Occupational Health and Safety Administration, and United Steelworkers organized the Workers’ Memorial Day March this past Sunday, April 23. Workers’ Memorial Day was founded April 23, 1971, upon the creation of OSHA in response to public demands for safer workplaces. Specifically, the day memorializes the 5,000 workers who die annually on job sites.

New Labor advocates for workers’ rights, specifically for safe working conditions. The organization operates under five core values: working together, respect, equality, capturing and sharing power.

Many impassioned speakers presented testimonials, all of which were translated into Spanish by a live interpreter. Lou Kimmel, co-founder of New Labor, exclaimed ardently, “People don’t go to work to die. They go to make a living.”

Pat Jones of OSHA listed off names of 45 workers who died on the job in 2016.

A representative from United Steelworkers presented horrifying statistics such as every other week a steelworker dies on the job.

Despite the obviously tragic and shocking nature of the statistics regarding workplace deaths, the most gripping part of the rally was the sheer diversity of races and ages. Namely, the number of children was shocking, yet strangely fitting. The issue of labor rights is inherently cross-generation, as one speaker quoted his deceased brother: “I work to help get us out of the poverty our parents grew up in.”

It is particularly poignant that at an event about economic advancement, those who will be most affected by that advancement, children, would be overwhelmingly presented. And it is children who will eventually take up the mantle. The event was about not only preserving the safety of loved ones currently in the workforce but also ensuring a brighter future for their children.

Above the crowd light shown through remarkable stained-glass windows: a symbolic ray of the future.

The crowd cheered “Ni una muerte más!” — “Not one more death!” — drawing families out of their homes into the streets of New Brunswick.

The march not only brought together workers, but an entire community consisting of New Brunswick residents, students, and political activists. After all, New Labor is about “working together,” and “sharing power.” These are values not only in name but also represented by the actions of its members, and the community it has created.

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