Our country boasts the world’s most talented, driven, effective labor force. American workers power our homes and feed our families. They raise skyscrapers, transport goods to market, and manufacture products that are the envy of the world. Together, they form the backbone of our economy. As a Nation, we have an obligation to protect the men and women who perform these vital tasks. Yet tragically, thousands of American workers die on the job each year, and millions more suffer work-related injuries or illnesses. On Workers Memorial Day, we honor them, and we reaffirm that no one should have to put their life on the line to bring home a paycheck.
At the turn of the 20th century, laborers faced hazardous conditions. Factory doors were locked from the outside, which prevented quick evacuation in emergencies. A combination of shoddy equipment and fatigue from long shifts made serious injury and death all too common. Career-ending injuries often led to poverty and starvation.
From mine shafts to railroads to factory floors, workers began to speak out. Thanks to generations of union organizers and advocates, conditions slowly improved. But it was not until decades later that our laws assured the right to a safe workplace. The Federal Coal Mine Health and Safety Act of 1969 established comprehensive health and safety standards for the mining industry, and the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 enacted similar standards for all workers. These statutes remain the cornerstone of our protections today, and my Administration remains committed to enforcing them by ensuring workers know their rights, worksites comply with the law, and wrongdoers are held accountable.
Today, our thoughts and prayers are with all those who have lost a loved one to a workplace accident or work-related illness. But we owe them more than prayers. We owe them action and accountability. While we cannot eliminate all risk from the world’s most dangerous professions, we can guarantee that when a worker steps up to an assembly line or into a mine shaft, their country stands alongside them, protecting their safety and their stake in the American dream.
NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim April 28, 2013, as Workers Memorial Day. I call upon all Americans to participate in ceremonies and activities in memory of those killed or injured due to unsafe working conditions.
IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this twenty-sixth day of April, in the year of our Lord two thousand thirteen, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-seventh.
The Metal Trades Department, AFL-CIO strongly condemns the passage of H.R. 1120, in the House of Representatives.
This legislation is another example of the all-out assault by many Republicans on the National Labor Relations Board and on basic workers protections. While 10 Republicans stood up for workers’ rights and voted “no” on H.R. 1120, the vast majority of Republican members voted for the bill’s passage.
The bill would “prohibit the National Labor Relations Board from taking any action that requires a quorum of the members of the Board until such time as Board constituting a quorum shall have been confirmed by the Senate.” Meanwhile the Republicans have frustrated the appointment of qualified leadership to the NLRB through parliamentary tactics.
“The passage of this bill is just another example of the cynical Republican policies designed to frustrate the rights of workers on the job and the utter disdain for the vital work that the NLRB performs,” said Ron Ault, president of the Metal Trades Department.
Executive General Vice President Ken Rigmaiden elected to serve the remainder of this term
General President Williams
Hanover, MD — Effective April 1, 2013, International Union of Painters and Allied Trades (IUPAT) General President James Williams officially retires from office.
“There are no words to express just how much I have loved every minute of this job,” said Williams. “It has been my honor and privilege to serve the greatest membership in the labor movement. My thanks to those who have given me such incredible support over the years, and I will always cherish my time spent with my fellow members.”
IUPAT Executive General Vice President Ken Rigmaiden was unanimously elected by the union’s General Executive Board, after being endorsed by all IUPAT business managers, as Williams’ successor.
“General President Williams has ably led this union for nearly 11 years,” said Rigmaiden. “Like the rest of the labor movement, we’ve been through some tough times. Yet, under Jim’s leadership, we always overcame those challenges and emerged as the union known for fighting above its weight class. I, and the rest of the proud men and women of the IUPAT, wish him the best in his well-earned retirement.
“I also want to acknowledge and thank the IUPAT General Executive Board and the General President’s Advisory Committee for their unanimous endorsement of my presidency. I will work to ensure that their confidence in my leadership of our union is not unfounded. My primary focus will be on creating more opportunities for our members.”
“Ken Rigmaiden is more prepared to lead this international than I was 11 years ago,” said Williams. “We have been working together for the last 19 years, both on the local level in the Bay Area and in Washington, DC, and I knew from the first time I saw Ken chair a local union meeting that he had a quality of leadership that sets him apart from the average leader. In my opinion, there will be no learning curve. He’s good to go from day one.”
General President Williams served the IUPAT for 45 years as a member and a leader. He began as an apprentice glazier in District Council 21/Local Union 252 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1968. Over the course of the next nearly five decades, Williams rose through the ranks of his local union, district council and the International headquarters to eventually lead the IUPAT as general president.
Rigmaiden became a floor covering installer apprentice in District Council 16/Local Union 12 in San Jose, California in 1977. In the following years, he was elected by his fellow members to serve in many leadership positions on both the local union and district council levels. In 1996, he was tapped to work for the union on the International level in the IUPAT Western Region as a general representative. In 1997, he began working for the International headquarters in Washington, DC as an assistant to the general president with responsibilities in National Agreements and Jurisdiction, as well as serving as the national project coordinator for the IUPAT Job Corps program, among other duties.
Mr. Rigmaiden was elected to the position of executive general vice president for the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades in 2002.
IUPAT General Secretary-Treasurer George Galis remains in his position, while Bill Candelori, general vice president of the IUPAT Eastern Region, has been elected by the General Executive Board to fill the vacancy left by Rigmaiden as the executive general vice president for the remainder of this term (August 2014). He’ll continue to oversee the operations of the Eastern Region in addition to his new duties as the EGVP.