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Workers' Memorial Adds Protest

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On April 28, a bell will toll for Edward Seelhorst, who worked on an assembly line at the FedEx station in Neville Township and died after an accident at work. It will toll for John Brenckle, a volunteer firefighter who assisted in the relief efforts for last September's floods and fell ill from a water-borne bacteria. Bells will toll also for Tom Fisher, Scott Stewart, Ed Crevda and Richard Conklin, all of whom were working on a tugboat when it tumbled over the Montgomery Dam and plunged into the Ohio River during the January 2005 floods.

 

At the annual Worker's Memorial Day ceremony, demonstrators will ring a bell once for each of the 22 people who died while doing his or her job in or around Allegheny County in the past year. Joe Dalele, head of the outreach committee for the Allegheny County Labor Council, which is sponsoring the event, says it's both a memorial and a protest.

 

"It's a solemn event with bells and crosses," Dalele explains. "But we are also making a statement: A person should not have to be afraid of death or serious injury when they go to their job in the morning."

 

"Even if it's an attorney and he died at his desk -- he had a heart attack -- he died on the job," says Barbara Barnes, a union pipefitter active in the Labor Council.

 

April 28 marks the 24th anniversary of the establishment of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, the first federal office dedicated to creating and enforcing safety standards in nongovernmental workplaces.

Dalele says OSHA has come under attack by George W. Bush's administration and the Republican-controlled Congress. "They've essentially taken the teeth out of OSHA," he says.

Difficult economic times make work place safety an even more important issue, Dalele adds. "Sometimes safety is overlooked when companies drive their workers so hard because they need to make a profit."

Noon, April 28, Market Square, Downtown.

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