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AFL-CIO and United Way hold Workers Memorial Day service in Howard Park

Justin Hicks
IPB News
Local organizations unveiled a memorial in Howard Park dedicated to essential workers who died from COVID-19 on Workers Memorial Day last year.

Thursday is National Workers Memorial Day, which promotes workplace safety and commemorates those who died on the job.

The Indiana legislature formally recognized the memorial in 2020. It’s held every year on April 28, when the Occupational Safety and Health Administration was signed into law in 1971. OSHA created many of the workplace safety standards and enforcement procedures still in place today.

In honor of the day, the United Way of St. Joseph County and the AFL-CIO Northern Indiana Area Labor Federation will hold a memorial service in Howard Park.

Joe Carbone, president of the South Bend chapter of the Northern Indiana Area Labor Federation, said workplace fatalities have almost doubled in Indiana over the last three years.

“Some of that may be from the fact that we’re getting a younger workforce that are replacing some of the older folks that are retiring,” he said. “But the trend is troubling.”

Last year, local organizations unveiled a memorial in Howard Park dedicated to essential workers who lost their lives to COVID-19.

Carbone said this year’s service will commemorate all workers who died on the job last year, including two from St. Joseph County. But it will also highlight ways to prevent future work-related deaths and injuries.

“Mourn for the dead, but fight for the living — that’s the sort of motto,” he said. “You know, we do want to mourn the folks who have passed because of working on their job, but also to make those same job sites safer in the future.”

He cited legislation that would implement speed cameras in highway work zones that has repeatedly failed to pass both houses of the state legislature.

“Right now, as workers rights are being challenged, it’s especially important to resist any attempts to cut safety budgets or weaken enforcement moving forward,” Carbone said.

State and local elected officials — including South Bend Mayor James Mueller and a representative for Mishawaka Mayor Dave Wood — will be on hand Thursday to talk about workplace safety efforts and to remember those who were lost.

The service begins at 4 p.m. and is open to the public. Carbone said the Northern Indiana Area Labor Federation will hold similar memorials in Hobart and Lafayette Thursday.

“It’s important that we work with our community leaders and our businesses to make sure that our families go home safe at night,” he said.

Contact Gemma at or follow her on Twitter at @gemma_dicarlo.

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Gemma DiCarlo came to Indiana by way of Athens, Georgia. She graduated from the University of Georgia in 2020 with a degree in Journalism and certificates in New Media and Sustainability. She has radio experience from her time as associate producer of Athens News Matters, the flagship public affairs program at WUGA-FM.