In 1989, April 28 was designated by the labor movement as Workers Memorial Day, a day to honor and remember fallen workers, double down on efforts to improve workplace safety and hold unscrupulous employers accountable.
More than 30 years later, Workers Memorial Day is more poignant and necessary than ever. It continues to be recognized by union leaders and members, safety advocates, and family, friends, and colleagues of fallen workers as a day to honor lost loved ones and recommit to fighting for safer workplaces.
That’s exactly what TWU Local 570 member Adrienne Crawford is doing today – and every day. For Crawford, Workers Memorial Day will always be a fitting and somber tribute to her brother, Michael Fernandez Haith, who was just 37 when he was killed on the job in 2019.
Crawford’s life was forever changed by the loss of her brother and she is committed to making sure workplaces are safe for all workers, regardless of the industry or geographic location. That is why, this Workers Memorial Day, Crawford joined elected leaders and government officials for a ceremony and workplace safety discussion at the Department of Labor in Washington, DC.
A Preventable Tragedy
During the ceremony, Crawford honored her brother’s memory, accepted a proclamation in his name, and collectively mourned with other families impacted by workplace losses. She also met with Acting Secretary of Labor Julie Su, Assistant Secretary of Labor for Mine Safety and Health Christopher Williamson, and Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Douglas Parker – where she spoke with them about issues related to workplace fatalities and the impact her brother’s death has had on her family.
“One of the most painful aspects of losing my brother in a workplace tragedy was the response my family received from the company,” Crawford said. “The company never did call my family – not even a courtesy call. My mother had to call the job site, ask if there was an accident, and ask if it involved her son.”
Upon taking control of her brother’s possessions after his passing, Crawford and her family quickly realized the extent to which Haith and his colleagues were working in an unsafe environment. In the weeks leading up to his passing, Haith had documented on his phone workplace safety violations, including exposed and faulty wires, a supervisor sleeping on the job, poor and inadequate training, and overworked, undertrained, fatigued colleagues who were responsible for operating heavy machinery.
Crawford’s family is now taking legal action against her brother’s employer, but Crawford’s activism isn’t stopping there. She believes her brother might still be alive today if he had union representation at his job site and is taking full advantage of being a TWU member. Crawford now leads the safety committee council at her jobsite and is actively working to ensure she and her colleagues remain safe on the job.
“No family should have to go through what my family has been through,” Crawford said. “If we can save even one life, then I know my efforts, and the support of the union, have made a difference.”