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• Information Date: 09/02/2010
• Speaker: David Michaels

Remarks by
DAVID MICHAELS
Assistant Secretary of Labor
For Occupational Safety and Health

"Rebuilding Through Unity" event
One World Trade Center Construction Project
World Trade Center, Manhattan
Thursday, September 2, 2010



"A Monument to Worker Safety"

There are special places in America that inspire reverence and awe - Grand Canyon National Park, Gettysburg battlefield, the Jefferson Memorial, and the Statue of Liberty.

Freedom Plaza is such a place. We are in awe of what happened here nine years ago, and we hold great reverence for the lost lives that consecrated this ground.

Now, on this site, workers are building a monument to those lives, a symbol of American resilience, and a testament to human engineering.

When it is completed, this will be the tallest building in the nation, and the workers who helped build this monument will be filled with pride for the rest of their lives whenever they remember what they achieved here.

I also hope that this building will stand as a towering monument to worker safety.

Speaking not only as the administrator for OSHA -- the Federal agency in charge of protecting our nation's workforce -- but also as a proud, native New Yorker: This site needs no more tragedy, no more wounded workers, and no more grieving families.

Only a skilled, qualified and trained workforce can build a project of this magnitude -- and this project can succeed only when everyone's knowledge, expertise, experience and awareness contribute to a safe and healthful workplace.

Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis is fond of talking about her vision of "Good Jobs For Everyone" -- a vision that all of us can embrace. Of course, the only good jobs are safe jobs, which is why we are here today.

I want to recognize and thank a number of people for their commitment to worker safety and health here at Ground Zero:

  • Joe Hunt with Iron Workers International
  • Gary LaBarbera and Ed Malloy with the New York State Building and Construction Trades Council
  • Lou Coletti and Hank Kita with the New York State Building Trades Employers' Association
  • Steve Rank and Kevin Byrnes with IMPACT
  • Louis Iglesias and Dan Conway with Chartis insurance
  • Chris Ward and Steve Plate with the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey
  • Shari Natovitz and Silverstein Properties
  • Local OSHA staff -- many of whom were here on 9/11 and in the harrowing days, weeks and months that followed
  • And -- most of all -- the workers!

A total of 61 New York City building trade workers died on September 11, 2001. Among them --

  • Ironworkers, Local 40, lost member Peter Vega who was working his other job as a Fireman on September 11.
  • Ironworkers, Local 580, lost three members that day: David Weiss, Kenneth Watson and John Collins.

On September 12, dock builder and U.S. Marine Rick Ostrander from Local 1456 arrived here and volunteered to help the city and the nation recover and rebuild. On that Friday he was employed full time and worked 309 shifts throughout the ten months of the project. As a shop steward responsible for the safety and health of his members and working continuously through those dark days of September, Rick remembers a particularly rough night three weeks into the job. Slumped in his seat in the cafeteria, exhausted, with no end in sight, Rick was ready to quit. Then a volunteer approached and said he had mail waiting for him. Confused about how he could be getting mail at a disaster site, Rick opened a letter written by nine-year-old Nancy Hudson from Kentucky.

Her handmade card said how sorry she was about the terrible thing that had happened but she thanked God that he was there in New York, making sure that all the workers would be kept safe and that no more lives would be lost. Young Nancy urged him to never give up, never quit -- and this tough Marine broke down and wept.

That was the beginning of a flood of correspondence between school children all over America and members of the building trade union. Their letters were addressed to "The Construction Worker Heroes." Rick personally received and responded to 300 letters and they kept him going until the job was done.

In the weeks following 9/11, as construction workers, Federal, State and local government workers and others reported early each morning to the disaster site in lower Manhattan, people from all walks of life lined West Street. They applauded, cheered and shouted their thank-yous to the workers for their daily courage and commitment. They expressed through their cheers and tears that everyone was connected, and that our nation's future -- our security and our ability to prevail through those dark days -- was in the hands of these construction workers and public servants.

Today the hands of those are ironworkers and their brothers and sisters in the construction trades, their managers, the leadership of IMPACT, and everyone else overseeing this complex project are joined in a solemn promise to themselves, to their fellow workers, and to those who have perished here:

Each day -- and every day -- labor and management will work together to discuss safety, identify hazards, come up with solutions and track progress.

Each day -- and every day on the job -- they will enter this site with the goal of ensuring that worker safety and health is the number one priority.

Each day -- and every day -- everyone on this site will look out for each other and call out when they see anything that poses a hazard.

The eyes of the Nation will follow your progress and their hearts will be with you. Everyone wants you to succeed -- but you can only succeed by working together. This is the meaning behind this construction project's theme: "Rebuilding Through Unity."

Earlier this week, the Iron Workers / IMPACT / OSHA National Training Partnership came together for two days of comprehensive training. The training covered all the regulations of the Steel Erection Standard to make sure everyone understands the rules and is clear about the best ways we know to stay healthy and safe on the job.

In this spirit of cooperation and assistance, let us set a goal of ZERO worker deaths and ZERO serious injuries.

Let us pledge to do everything in our power to see that every last worker on this project returns home to friends and families, safe and healthy, every day.

And, on this day, as we imagine the completion of this exciting, soaring addition to New York's famous skyline, let us embrace the war cry of that great worker advocate, Mother Jones, who instructed us to "Pray for the dead ... and fight like hell for the living!"

Thank you.


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