April 28, 2017 is observed across much of the world as Workers’ Memorial Day. On this day we pause to remember the millions of workers who give their lives each day planting and harvesting our food, building our homes and cars, paving our roads and shipping our goods. The International Labor Organization has estimated that more than 2 million workers each year die in traumatic accidents or from occupational diseases such as black lung, asbestosis and cancers caused by exposure to hazardous chemicals.
Four years ago Pope Francis fixed our eyes on this issue with his sharp response to the Rana plaza disaster, when more than one thousand Bangladeshi garment workers were killed in a building collapse. But we don’t need to go to South Asia to find examples of this injustice. In America every year nearly 5,000 workers die from traumatic workplace injuries, and an estimated 50,000 from occupational diseases (cancers, heart disease and respiratory disorders caused by exposure to hazardous chemicals or other unhealthy working conditions).
Want details? Check out Death on the Job, the AFL-CIO’s annual report on worker safety and health.