At the APHA meeting yesterday, the APHA’s Occupational Health & Safety Section held its annual awards luncheon – and the list of honorees included names that are familiar to many Pump Handle readers.
Our own Celeste Monforton won the Lorin Kerr Award, which “recognizes a younger activist for their sustained and outstanding efforts and dedication to improving the lives of workers.” (Lorin Kerr was a physician and lifelong activist dedicated to improving access to healthcare for coal miners and other workers and to obtaining compensation for and preventing black lung disease.) Celeste’s commitment to worker health and safety comes through in her posts here, and those who’ve had the pleasure of working with her know that she “puts her heart into everything she does,” as David Michaels explained while presenting her the award. Celeste’s OHS section colleagues write that she “has been one of the ‘engines’ behind the workings of the OHS section and is a great example of the dedication, hard work and high spirit that helps our section achieve our work in advocacy for worker health and safety.”
Tammy Miser was one of two winners of the Tony Mazzocchi Award, which “gives recognition to grassroots H&S activists in Local Unions or other local organizations fighting for the H&S rights of workers.” (Tony Mazzocchi was an influential labor leader who played a key role in legislative struggles, including the passage of the OSH Act.) Some of our readers will recognize Tammy as the brains and soul behind the Weekly Toll blog, which reminds us of the human lives and faces behind workplace deaths and advocates for the rights of these workers’ family members. Tammy became an activist after her brother, Shawn Boone, was killed in an aluminum-dust explosion at the Hayes-Lemmerz wheel manufacturing plant. She founded United Support and Memorial for Workplace Fatalities (USMWF) to provide assistance for other members confronting similar tragedies, and the organization’s members have just drafted a Family Bill of Rights to provide fundamental rights to the loved ones left behind by fatal workplace injuries and illnesses. Jordan Barab presented Tammy with the award and praised her for putting “don’t mourn, organize” into action.
Jonathan Rosen also won the Tony Mazzocchi Award for more than 25 years of tireless health and safety activism, including work on workplace violence prevention. “Whether giving advice and comfort to an injured worker, energizing a health and safety committee, or testifying in state and national legislative hearings, Jonathan always keeps the needs of the injured worker foremost,” his OHS section colleagues explained. Jonathan is Director of Safety and Health for the New York State Public Employees Federation, and helped get a model Workplace Violence Law passed in New York. Jonathan works “directly and compassionately with affected workers,” Kate McPhaul said as she presented him with the award, and as a result, many of these workers have now become activists themselves.
Rosie Sokas was honored with the Alice Hamilton award for “work[ing] continuously to protect worker health through a combination of public service, research, teaching and academic medicine.” (Alice Hamilton is considered to be the founder of occupational health in the U.S., and she worked tirelessly as a physician and activist to improving the health and safety of workers.) Her work has ranged from directing medical care for migrant and seasonal farmworkers to directing OSHA’s Office of Occupational Medicine, and in her academic career – she’s currently Director and Professor of the University of Illinois at Chicago School of Public Health, Division of Occupational Health Sciences – she advanced workers’ role in occupational health research. In her acceptance speech, she asked audience members to read the rights listed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, reminding us of the principles that drive our work.
Jagdish Patel won the International Award for being the main force behind the Peoples Training and Research Centre, an innovative grassroots OHS advocacy group in the state of Gujarat in India. “Without his tireless work, creative strategies, and dedication, the workers of Gujarat would have almost no access to health and safety information and services,” his colleagues wrote. PTRC works with local communities and union activists to identify problems and press for improvements; their activities include training shop floor union activists to identify health and safety problems and solutions and to know their legal rights, and running “diagnosis camps” and clinics that provide workers with advice on legal issues and safer work methods as well as medical check-ups. In his acceptance speech, Jagdish traced his work back to a four-page article about U.S. COSH groups (Committees/Coalitions on Occupational Safety and Health) that he read in 1985.
After the award presentations, OHS section members treated the audience to a skit set in a nursing home run by Smithfield; by popular demand, it included a reprise of “I Can’t Help Catching the Deadly Flu,” and, of course, a “This Land is Your Land” sing-along.
Congratulations to all of the 2007 Occupational Health & Safety Award winners! Their complete bios, as well as info on previous years’ winners, are available in the OHS section’s Hall of Fame.