With song, prayer and testimony, workers killed while on the job this past year were remembered at NYSUT headquarters during the annual Workers Memorial Day observance. The somber event drew a strong showing of unionists, activists and politicians.
NYSUT Secretary-Treasurer Lee Cutler noted the "solemn day" provided the union an opportunity to repeat its call to federal and state lawmakers that they make worker health and safety a priority. "It is incumbent upon organized labor to fight like hell for the living," Cutler said.
Among those memorialized at the ceremony was Lance Gregson - the 44-year-old husband of NYSUT and Schroon Lake Teachers Association member Anne Gregson - who died from injuries suffered in a 30-foot fall from scaffolding while working as a stone mason.
In a moment that brought a hush over the assembled crowd, state Labor Commission Patricia Smith scrapped her prepared remarks and, with raw emotion, told of how a mine collapse in the western Pennsylvania town where she grew up claimed the lives of 100 workers. As she fought back tears, Smith said some of those killed were the fathers of children she played with, recalling how one family lost six sons in the accident. The horrifying incident, she said, inspired her to dedicate her life to improving working conditions for laborers.