Over 230 People Virtually Gather to Mourn The Dead and Fight For the Living

Over 230 People Virtually Gather to Mourn The Dead and Fight For the Living

The Central New York Labor Council Observes Workers Memorial Day

For immediate release:

April 29, 2020

Contact: Eric Kopp, [email protected], (201) 286-5795


Utica, N.Y. - Over 70 people virtually gathered to hear from labor leaders from across Oneida and Herkimer Counties talk about the state of workplace safety standards and observe Workers Memorial Day. 

“This year’s event is going to be very different because of social distancing and the Covid-19 health crisis,” noted Samantha DeRiso, president of the Central New York Labor Council. “Although we cannot come together, we can still renew our yearly pledge to fight for workplace safety standards.”

The coronavirus pandemic is putting even more union and frontline employees at risk. “Tonight, we are not only honoring the past, we’re also honoring and showing support, for all the union members that are providing their towns, their neighbors, their communities, and their states with the essentials needed for survival,” said Frank DeRiso, international vice president of United Food and Commercial Workers and president of UFCW Local One. “Our job is to make sure that their safety and the conditions that they’re working in are protecting them to the best of their abilities.

“The shortage of PPE is still a very big problem for healthcare workers and for all frontline workers,” said Michele Ward, a radiology/angiography technologist at St. Elizabeth Medical Center/MVHS and chief steward of UFCW Local One Technical Bargaining Unit, in a prepared statement as she had to return to the hospital at the last minute. “This PPE shortage has pretty much been resolved at my place of employment, for now, there are still shortages all over the country and it is our job to keep speaking loudly to say we will not be silent until every union worker has proper PPE.”

A part of the program focused on OSHA regulations and how some employers believe it slows the work process down by being too costly and unrealistic. “If there is one thing to justify the importance of OSHA and put it into a harsh perspective, it’s that every law was put in place because of a specific situation and was paid for with blood,” said Brian Wiggins, secretary of CNYLC and shop chairman of United Auto Workers (UAW) 2367. “Our blood, the blood of our brothers and sisters who went to work to do nothing more than provide for their family and may not have even returned home.”

“We will continue the fight in memory of workers by lobbying our local and state officials to push labor’s priorities,” said Samantha DeRiso. “So no worker suffers or loses a life because of unsafe working conditions.”

You can find a recording of the event here on our Facebook page.