WisCOSH has been commemorating workplace deaths for many too many decades. Yet workers continue to die in unacceptable numbers every year. While there have been spectacular improvements since OSHA opened for business in 1971 there is still a long, long way to go. Before OSHA was created there was no central repository of information of workplace deaths but it has been generally accepted that between 16 and 20,000 workers died on the job every year. It may have even been higher, we'll never know. Over the past 46 years that number has fallen to an average of 4,500-6,000 workers are killed on the job every year. That's still too many workers that leave home each day and never return home again.
WisCOSH, together with the National COSH and other COSH groups across the country, has decided to try to raise awareness of the fact that workers are still dying far too frequently by going beyond Workers' Memorial Day with a Workers' Memorial Week of Action.
This year WisCOSH decided to send a delegation of injured workers to confront WI's Congressional delegation with demands to remove the cuts in funding to OSHA from the current drafts of the budget as well as return funding to the Susan Harwood Grant Program which has been specifically targeted. Year in and year out the Susan Harwood Grant Program in one of - if not the - best return on investment grants. For the approximately $10 million a year the program costs thousands of workers and employers are provided free, high quality OSHA-based training and information they would likely not have had access to otherwise.
On April 20th WisCOSH sent 10 injured workers to spend the day in Washington D.C. meeting with their Senators and House of Represntatives and discuss with them the issues and to deliver the National COSH's Protecting Worker's Lives and Limbs agenda for action.
The day started early with a 7am flight out of Mitchell International Airport to Reagan International Airport. It was a quick flight that left the delegation with a little over 7 hours to see their Congresspeople. While all the delegates had made appointments to see their Congresspersons Congress decided to take a break the week before the trip so they ended up meeting with administrative aides.
It was somewhat warmer in Washington D.C. than it was in Milwaukee when we left. While it was welcome everyone had dressed for the cooler weather. After ensuring that everyone was present it was time to get into the capital and start our mission. Several cabs were called and we were off to see Congress.
First on our schedule was to visit our Senators Baldwin and Johnson. Having spoken and met with Sen. Baldwin over the years some of already knew where her heart was but we wanted to make sure she had a copy of the National COSH's pllatform. Many of the delegation had never been to DC before or met Sen. Baldwin so they were excited to see her office and meet with her aides to tell their story.