On Friday, April 23, I joined over Zoom with my colleagues on the Board of the Philadelphia Area Project for Occupational Safety and Health (PHILAPOSH) and guests to commemorate Workers Memorial Day, to honor those workers who have been killed or injured on the job, working for their paychecks to provide for themselves and their loved ones. Over the years, PHILAPOSH has advocated for injured workers, connecting them with lawyers to help them through the workers’ compensation application process; called for “right to know” laws to help workers know the dangers of whatever chemicals they have to deal with; and trained workers on safety techniques on the job-lately the focus was on Latin-American-descended workers in the home construction industry, with materials in Spanish. During the pandemic, PHILAPOSH has been concerned with COVID-19, since such facilities as meat-processing plants have become hotbeds of transmission.
traditionally, PHILAPOSH has, every Workers Memorial Day, conducted a breakfast where we hear speakers discussing workers’ safety problems and legislative and political solutions; we also honor the memory of the workers killed on the job over the past year, along with their loved ones. After the breakfast, we would hold a funeral procession in their honor down Columbus Boulevard to Penn’s Landing, where we would read the deceased workers’ names and throw roses into the Delaware; may their memory be for a blessing.
(Please check the PHILAPOSH web site, https://philaposh.org/, to lend your support for this great organization I’m proud to be a part of.)
Coming up on May 1 is May Day, the International Workers’ Holiday, recognized as such by workers all around the globe-except the United States, where Cold-War propaganda has treated May Day like a commie-pinko subversive thing. Thanks to the work of the late Director Emeritus of PHILAPOSH Jim Moran (may his memory be a blessing), workers in the Philadelphia region are learning the real story about May Day, such as its origins in this country from the Knights of Labor’s movement for the eight-hour day, the Haymarket incident of 1886 after a workers’ demonstration for the eight-hour day, and the framing and execution of several anarchist Labor leaders afterwards. The history of the eight-hour movement and the Haymarket incident can be found in the great Labor History series, History Of The Labor Movement In The United States by Philip Foner, published by International Publishers, https://www.intpubnyc.com/ .
Workers, let us get together to learn our history-where we came from-so that, armed with that knowledge, we can unite and build the kind of future we want, for ourselves and our descendants.