Champaign County Worker’s Memorial

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On May Day we celebrate the struggle for the eight-hour day and other workers’ rights. In
the above article, David Johnson recounts the history of May Day that is too little known
in this country.
Workers who try to organize are still being shot in countries such, Colombia and
Guatemala. And while we are rapidly losing the eight-hour day and the right to strike
(e.g., the use of “replacement workers,” known to the labor movement as “scabs”) for
which so many struggled and died, it is the rare case indeed when workers or union organizers
are actually shot in the United States. However, work is often dangerous, and
becoming more so with the Bush administration’s emasculation of OSHA, the federal
body that is supposed to enforce health and safety conditions for U.S. workers. Of course,
not all accidents are due to violations of health and safety regulations.
In September 2, 2002, there was a dedication of Worker’s Memorial in memory of workers
who have lost their lives on the job in Champaign County since 1950. There are
presently 108 names engraved on the memorial. A leading role in the creation of the memorial
and research into people who died was Bill Bland, a former president of the AFL-CIO of
Champaign County, and subsequently mayor of the City of Champaign. Funds for the project
were raised through grassroots donations, local trade union and contractor donations,
and a grant that was obtained through the office of Representative Timothy Johnson. The
labor to construct the memorial was donated by members of the building trades unions.
The Worker’s Memorial is an impressive, solemn, and peaceful site. Its marble tablets
and flag pole sit in Dobbs Park, on the road to Parkland College from Mattis Avenue. We
encourage our readers to visit it, to pay their respects to the people who died on the job
in our county, and to reflect on how many people gave their lives in order to get their
right to unionize recognized by the government and employers in this country—and how
that right is being eroded and denied today.

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