A few weeks ago, The News & Observer published an article entitled “Many NC workers’ death go uncounted,” describing how often workplace deaths in North Carolina are uninvestigated, undocumented, and unreported. The article details the ways that the NC Department of Labor reports workplace fatalities and how a large number of deaths are not counted in the numbers that are reported. Many of these workplace deaths are related to the North Carolina economy’s ties to an agricultural system that demands physically difficult and often dangerous work. For example, the article describes the death of Bill Goodson, a logger who died when a log slipped off a machine and struck him in the head. North Carolina needs to be especially aware of its fallen and injured workers, because our state’s economy is literally built on their backs.
Likewise, as workers’ deaths go undocumented, questions continue to be raised about the documentation status of immigrant workers, as changes are soon to be implemented by the President’s executive action. More immigrant workers will be able to work legally; however, the work that they often do is hazardous and potentially fatal. Many fatality reports are often vague with information such as “male” and “cause of death: asphyxiation.” Safer workplaces are vital in order to bring about real reform that honors the contributions of all workers, both immigrant and native born.
Workplace safety is a matter of life and death for thousands of hard working individuals in our state. Let us join hands this Workers’ Memorial Day and honor the memories of our fallen workers and their families. Today there will be a press conference in Raleigh to deliver a letter to Cheri Berry, the North Carolina Commissioner of Labor, calling on her to investigate in order to determine accurate counts of workers killed in North Carolina. Let us awaken our passion for justice and labor together to make employers accountable for workplace deaths in our state.