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Black Workers Are Dying On The Job At A High Rate

April 28 is Workers Memorial Day. The American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations released an annual report to spread awareness on the alarming rise in worker deaths, particularly among Black and Brown workers.

Death on the Job: The Toll of Neglect, a national and state-by-state profile of worker safety and health, not only includes data on the fatality rates in all 50 states, but also the most affected industries. The report is a call to action for funding and support needed for critical job safety oversight and enforcement. More progress is needed.

Though underreporting is widespread, AFL-CIO discovered the fatality rate for Black workers grew from 3.5 to 4.0 per 100,000 workers, and more than 650 died on the job, the highest number in nearly two decades.

Latin workers–on the other hand–have the greatest risk of dying on the job,with a fatality rate at 4.5 per 100,000 workers. This number has grown by 13 percent over the past decade. In 2021, the overwhelming majority who died were immigrants.

“Every American should be alarmed and outraged by the tragic data unearthed in this report,” said AFL-CIO President Liz Shuler, according to a press release obtained by BLACK ENTERPRISE.

“It is unconscionable that in the wealthiest nation in the world, Black and Latino workers are facing the highest on-the-job fatality rates in nearly two decades. This report is more than a wake-up call, it is a call to action. No one should have to risk their lives for their livelihoods. There is no corporate cost-benefit analysis that should put human life and worker safety on the wrong side of the ledger,” Shuler said.

From hazardous working conditions to occupational diseases, this year’s AFL-CIO report also revealed that in 2021, 5,190 workers were killed on the job in the United States. Employers also reported nearly 3.2 million work-related injuries and illnesses.

“This report isn’t just about data points, it is about people. Every worker who died on the job represents another empty seat at a family’s kitchen table,” Schuler added.

In 2021, only 1,871 inspectors—900 at the federal level and 971 at the state— were accounted for the more than 10.8 million workplaces under the Occupational Safety and Health Act’s jurisdiction. This number equates to OSHA having the ability to inspect workplaces once every 190 years. Penalties for serious injuries and death of a worker are still too low.

With a goal to enforce worker safety, AFL-CIO laid out recommendations for strengthening federal agencies, including fully enforcing Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) resources, Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) job safety and health protections.

“Employers should be held accountable for the working conditions on jobsites, and our lawmakers at every level must use their power to properly enforce the policies designed to protect us,” said AFL-CIO Safety and Health Director Rebecca Reindel, per the release.

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