Thank you for being one of our most loyal readers. Please consider supporting community journalism by subscribing.
Workers, labor and faith leaders and family members gathered Friday morning on the grounds of the Old State Capitol in Raleigh for an annual interfaith Workers’ Memorial Day service to ring a bell 183 times in remembrance of the 183 people in North Carolina known to have died on the job in 2017, including a Middlesex community leader, and to call on the N.C. Department of Labor to do more to prevent workplace fatalities.
The North Carolina State AFL-CIO, the largest association of unions of working people in North Carolina, which promotes “working together for good jobs, safe workplaces, workers’ rights, consumer protections, and quality public services on behalf of all working people,” organized the Workers’ Memorial Day service. In addition to the bell-ringing, the event included a memorial procession from the historic capitol to the N.C. Department of Labor building, where an interfaith delegation hand-delivered 183 flowers on the doorstep.
A few dozen or more community members, many dressed in black, participated in the memorial, some holding boards displaying the known names of the dead. Others held photos or posters bearing the names of workplace fatality victims.
One of those names was Dale Bachmann, a former Middlesex town commissioner and mayoral candidate who was killed in November 2017 in an explosion at Pencco, a chemical manufacturer, where he worked as a plant manager. Residents described Bachmann as kind and jovial.
In a Wilson Times report at the time of his death, Cindy Nguyen, who frequently saw Bachmann while working in family’s businesses, Tran’s Mini Mart and Rosa’s Kitchen, said, “He was always happy, very honest and he never spoke bad about nobody. Even when you could see he was frustrated and his face would turn red, he’d hang up the phone and walk in like nothing happened. He was really good like that.”
Workers’ Memorial Day is an international day of remembrance for all those who have died while working for a better life, the AFL-CIO said in a press release. The 2017 count, the most recent year on record, cited nine more fatalities than in 2016.
The organization called on state Labor Commissioner Cherie Berry to do more to protect the lives and health of working people on the job, “including hiring more inspectors and showing respect to workplace fatality victims and their surviving loved ones.”
Berry, a five-term labor commissioner best known for her photo and signature appearing statewide on elevator inspection certificates, had previously announced she will not seek re-election in 2020.