Local 355 Administrative Clerical Employees

"Pray for the dead, fight for the living"

Former Pfizer biologist Becky McClain speaks at our Workers Memorial Day ceremony.

"Pray for the dead and fight like hell for the living." That was the message union members and safety advocates delivered April 28 at Council 4's annual Workers Memorial Day ceremony in front of our union's Workers Memorial Monument.

This year we honored the memory of Council 4 members who died on the job in 2009: Theresa Foss (Plainfield Local 818); Bryan Madore (Waterbury Local 353); Donald Nygard (Wallingford Local 1183); and Steven O’Brien (Waterbury Local 353). In addition, we heard from Steven Schrag, co-chair of the Connecticut Council on Occupational Safety and Health; and former Pfizer, Inc. molecular biologist Becky McClain, who acquired an illness after a work-related exposure to a genetically engineered virus at Pfizer. 

On April 1, McClain won a whistle-blower lawsuit against the pharmaceutical giant after it fired her for raising concerns about the company’s safety practices. Her personal story, McClain said, 

"...is not unique in ways where history seems to whisper her stories. Stories told where corporations can often prioritized “bottom lines” over workplace safety. Stories that tell a tale about workers being frightened to raise safety issues for fear of losing their job or position. Stories where workers must work in unsafe work conditions. Stories about injured workers who are subsequently terminated, ill and abandoned with no place to turn.

"But my case is unique because it involves the world of recombinant DNA, a world where new genetically engineered infectious agents are being created now almost every day in academic research labs, private biotech and pharmaceutical companies. It is unique because this field of research has very little regulations and oversight, consequently leaving injured workers with little legal remedies. It is unique because unsafe laboratory practices in recombinant DNA research can not only harm workers, but also could impact the public’s health by creating new emerging disease."

According to federal labor statistics, in 2008 in Connecticut, 28 workers died on the job while another 54,900 were injured or diseased at work.

Schrag, noting the recent tragedy in Middletown where six workers died during an explosion at the Kleen Energy Plant, called on Congress to enact the Protecting America's Workers Act, which all of Connecticut's congressional delegation has co-sponsored.

Every year on April 28, unions like Council 4 take time out on Workers Memorial Day to remember workers who have been killed on the job and to renew the pledge to make worklaces safer. April 28 is the anniversary of the enactment in 1970 of the Occupational Safety and Health Act.

Don Nygard, Jr. and Paul Len take time out to remember Don's father, Don Nygard, Sr., who died on the job. Len is a member of Local 1183.

Click here for a Workers Memorial Day photo gallery on our Council 4 FlickR page.

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