Union workers protest


Benjamin Davidson

Sen. Mark DeSaulnier speaks out on the issues that Union workers face in Todos Santa Plaza in Concord on Workers Memorial Day on April 28.

Benjamin Davidson, Managing editor

With informational picket signs in hand, the Concord crowd  looked on as the speakers expressed their emotions through personal work stories.

The annual Worker’s Memorial Day gathering is a time for mourning, and yet, it was able to bring together all those who wanted to address something that would hopefully better the whole – a change in safety, health and justice for Union workers.

With important attendees such as the vice mayor of Concord, Ron Leone and Sen. Mark DeSaulnier, the turnout was enough to grab the attention of anyone in the downtown Concord area on April 28.

The gathering was put on by an advocacy organization titled Worksafe – who is pushing for some new bills that would make the state safer for workers, according to Valeria Velazquez, an attendee.

“This is organized by Worksafe, which is an organization that advocates for responsible workplace health and safety legislation policy,” Velazquez said. “They talked about a few bills for example, that would make the state safer for workers.”

As a worker for the labor, occupational and health program, which is part of UC Berkeley, Velazquez is conscious of the type of awareness that needs to be spread.

The right to work in a safe and healthy place of employment and to return home uninjured at the end of each workday is what the main focus of the gathering was centered around. Yet, every year over 66,000 American workers are injured, or die from preventable workplace hazards or exposure to toxic chemicals, according to the Worksafe website.

Dan Jameyson, a member of the Service Employees National Union (SEIU), explained that he was there to support not only himself, but all of his co-workers who are dealing with the limited coverage and high risk of union jobs.

“Well both my own experience with occupational safety, and of course for my co-workers who I advocate for, who have disability, and just the day to day ability to do your job and come home to your family,” Jameyson said. “People take that for granted.”

Jameyson and Velazquez tended to share the same views on the matter.

“Some are responsible employers, there are others that are incredibly irresponsible and really, nearly 100 percent of all of these deaths are totally preventable. That’s the really disturbing thing,” Velazquez said.

The reason that the meeting was held publicly in Concord this year – complete with microphones and cameras – was that there was a want to get out of the niche area of people who have heard the same spiel several times already.

Ron Leone, vice mayor of concord, said that the fact that Concord is central to Contra Costa County and is the largest city may be why they chose it as the location this year. He also mentioned that the death at the Concord BART as well as work related injuries was likely a contributing factor.

“It’s good to see,” explained Leone as he was talking about the Mt. Diablo Unified School District employees, city workers, and friends and family in attendance.

“It’s bringing people together,” he said. “The labor is demonstrating the fact that there are safety concerns that they have in different organizations and different companies, and I think to dramatize that, it’s needed.”

Rachel Ann Reyes contributed to this story.