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Message from the Co-Chairmen: Expanding the Safety Umbrella in the Construction Industry

As we near the end of 2019 and begin to look forward to 2020, it’s a natural time to reflect on our achievements as well as the obstacles that challenged us over the course of the last year. Since our last issue of Lifelines, more than 88,000 members of the Laborers’ International Union of North America (LIUNA) submitted comments urging the U.S. Department of Labor to keep Industry Recognized Apprenticeship Programs (IRAPs) out of the construction industry. This number represented the lion’s share of Building Trades submissions, and left no doubt about the power of LIUNA and its ability to successfully mobilize members and LIUNA affiliates across the entire United States.

The outcome of the IRAPs proposal isn’t yet finalized, and other challenges – such as the potential spread of so-called right-to-work laws – force LIUNA and other unions to always be on guard. However, we have never been better suited to fend off these attacks, and the reality is that support for the labor movement is as strong as it’s ever been. A recent Gallup poll found that 64 percent of Americans approve of labor unions – a mark that’s among the highest recorded at any point during the last 50 years. The number of union members who approve of their union is also near its all-time high. With the income inequality gap in the U.S. continuing to widen in recent years, workers and their families are once again recognizing the benefits of coming together to collectively bargain for fair wages, strong health benefits and safe working conditions.

At the Laborers’ Health & Safety Fund of North American (LHSFNA), we know that a stronger labor movement ties directly to improved safety and health for workers. That difference can be seen on jobsites across the construction industry, where union workers suffer fewer serious injuries and fatalities than non-union workers do, and have clearly defined rights in place to stop work and correct hazards when they do arise. In 2019, the Fund continued to build on our efforts over the past several years to go beyond jobsite safety and health and shine a brighter light on issues that have traditionally been seen as taboo or difficult to discuss in the construction industry. This included examining issues like how to combat the ongoing opioid crisis and increasing rates of suicide among construction workers, as well as increasing awareness about the very real mental health impacts of harassment, bullying and other types of workplace violence. All of these issues belong under the safety umbrella just as much as protecting workers from falls, work zone intrusions and trench collapses. When it comes to LIUNA members, we cannot afford to limit our definition of occupational safety and health to physical safety. As we move forward into 2020, the Fund will continue to assist in education and advocacy efforts around these and other issues to advance the health and well-being of LIUNA members and all workers.

As another holiday season approaches, we want to take a moment to remind everyone to make healthy and responsible choices at holiday parties, family gatherings and other events. If you choose to drink alcohol, do so in moderation and plan ahead to ensure you have a safe way to get home. From our LHSFNA family to yours, we wish you and yours a cheerful and enjoyable holiday season.

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