New Brunswick residents march to remember workers injured during jobs
A computer rack fell on one man, crushing his legs under thousands of pounds and killing him. An angry patient attacked and stabbed a caseworker, nearly killing her before the woman's coworkers stepped in.
These incidents were part of the health and safety violations in New Jersey that led local workers to march in New Brunswick on Sunday. Advocacy organizations like New Labor and the Work Environment Council gathered to honor Workers’ Memorial Day and commemorate the deaths and injuries of workers statewide.
Leading a mock coffin ahead of them, the members marched from Anshe Emeth Memorial Temple on Livingston Avenue down the streets of the city.
In a speech before the march, Dan Fatton, executive director of the Work Environment Council, said 36 people were killed in New Jersey last year while on the job. He told workers to demand respect and mentioned his support for a living wage.
Members held up posters with the names of some of those who had perished. Patricia Jones, director of the Occupational Health and Safety Administration office in Avenel, New Jersey, said she had personally spoken to many of their families.
“This has been a burden on workers, families and societies as a whole,” she said.
The heaviest burden was on low wage workers and added that they have the same rights as others, including the right to report hazards in the workplace, she said.
The brother of Jamie Hoyt, who was killed transporting racks of computers in November 2012, discussed his feelings of grief and injustice at the lack of responsibility taken for Jamie's safety.
“Someone who had a stake in workers’ safety would not have let this happen,” Mike Hoyt said.
He recalled his brother as an “eternal optimist,” a recovered alcoholic who became a nurse but needed to take a temporary job to pay his rent. Jamie was passionate about politics and a devoted fan of the Kansas City Royals.
Brian Nelson of New Labor introduced Ana Delgado with a story about Leah Coleman, a caseworker in the Division of Children and Families who was stabbed in November 2014.
Delgado, a representative of the Health Professionals and Allied Employees union, fought to find out information and get metal detectors installed in Coleman’s office after the incident.
“(HPAE) has heard too many reports that nurses have been assaulted by patients or family members,” she said.
After a few more testimonials and a performance by the labor-themed Solidarity Singers, members gathered outside and walked around the neighborhood, chanting themes such as “We’re worth more” and “Ni una muerte más,” or "not one more death."
Angelica Santiago, a member of New Labor’s Lakewood office, said she had been a part of the organization for five years. When her mother joined, she became interested and started getting involved.
She has become a bit of a recruiter herself.
“People come and ask for information, they get informed,” she said.
Erin Petenko is a School of Arts and Sciences senior majoring in journalism and media studies and public health. She is a staff writer for The Daily Targum. Follow her on Twitter @EPetenko for more.