Thursday, April 29, 2004

The Workers' Memorial Day observances that I participated in yesterday were really moving. We gathered at Market Square at noon. Mike Stout and the Human Union did some driving rock 'n roll indictments of Halliburton, Harkin, Worldcom, Bush & Cheney before the ceremony began. Charlie McCollester skillfully coordinated the event. Donna Spadaro spoke with great passion about her brother, who was killed on his first day at work. After a stunning rendition of the national anthem, the names of Allegheny County workers who died at work in the past year were read, and a beautiful bell was rung.

My pal Tony Slomkoski and I grabbed lunch before heading to the four o'clock dedication at the memorial to the 180 Harwick miners who perished on May 30, 1904 ... I sang Hazel Dickens' song about the Mannington Mine disaster and Ed Yankovich, director of UMWA District 2, read the miners' burial prayer from the UMWA constitution --- I wonder if any other union has a burial prayer as part of its constitution and bylaws?

From there we went to the Springdale Fire Hall where I sang a selection of labor songs before the Workers' Memorial Day banquet. About 70 people attended and got to hear an amazing presentation by Sean, a boilermaker who was seriously injured in an explosion when he was only 3 months on the job. He sustained third degree burns over 65% of his body when he was only 19 -- a co-worker was killed.

So many of these tragic "accidents" are not accidents at all -- the result of speed-ups, inadequate training and improper equipment ... totally preventable... Work safe, sisters and brothers! And thanks to Charlie McCollester, Joe Clark, Tony Slomkoski, Don Faulkner and everyone who worked so hard to make the day moving and memorable.

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