Workers' Memorial Day: Remembering lives lost on the job and a call for change

Labor agencies advise workers to know their rights and advocate for a safer workplace.
HANFORD, Calif. (KFSN) -- Every 99 minutes, someone in the U.S. dies on the job, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.

Last year many of them were considered essential employees, working during the pandemic.

Wednesday their sacrifices were remembered on Workers' Memorial Day.

A small crowd gathered in front of the Hanford Courthouse to honor hundreds of lives lost to workplace illness and injuries.

"People are dying and it is because they are going to work every day," said Central Labor Council Program Director Mai Thao.

Several labor agencies were united in a call to action.

They demanded Central Valley companies ensure the safety of employees.

They also asked the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health to better enforce health and safety laws.

"More often than not we saw public health agencies really centering the corporations instead of the communities they are actually charged and paid for to serve," said Jakara Movement Executive Director Deep Singh.

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, 451 Californians died on the job in 2019. Local and state agencies are now trying to determine how many people lost their lives during the pandemic. One of them is Pedro Cruz Mendoza who worked in the ag Industry.

Claudia Medina of Lemoore believes her husband of 40 years contracted the virus on the job.

She says her husband fell very ill but management allowed him to continue working.

He refused to take a day off because he needed the income.

"I never thought this was going to happen to me. A lot of people aren't aware of the magnitude of this virus," Medina says.

"Exercise your rights, don't be silent. If you feel sick, go home and see a doctor."

Labor agencies echo Medina's words - know your rights and advocate for a safer workplace.
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