Several families who lost loved ones in workplace accidents last year gathered in Des Moines today for an Iowa Workers’ Memorial Day ceremony. Governor Chet Culver addressed the crowd outside the State Capitol. Two Iowans in the military were killed last year, while 46 people died in accidents on job sites.
“No one deserves the pain and grief that the families of these 48 people are feeling today and no words will take away that pain. But I do want to make one thing very clear – we will always remember the lives of these Iowans and their sacrifices,” Culver said. “Their lives will serve as a constant reminder to people…of the necessity of workplace safety.”
Iowa Federation of Labor President Ken Sagar also spoke to the families as they sat near 48 white crosses marked with each of the victims’ names. “I say it’s time that we work to make sure there are no white crosses on the lawn over here,” Sagar said. “There are fewer than in years past, but there are still too many.”
The first Workers Memorial Day was observed in 1989. Sagar has spoke at many of those past ceremonies. “I don’t want to stand here, year in and year out, looking at a crowd of people who have lost a loved one,” Sagar said. “If we truly believe that workers are valuable and safety is important, than we have to take action.”
Mark Cooper, President of South Central Iowa Federation of Labor, called on state and federal lawmakers to increase penalties on employers when workers are injured or killed on the job. Cooper is also requesting increased funding to agencies that inspect workplaces to prevent accidents.