Today is Labor Day, a day many of us spend celebrating the work of American workers and the labor movement that made this country the great nation that it is, and condemning people like the President, most of his party and many industry associations for undermining the rights and protections of American workers.
But I want to spend just a moment remembering a different kind of labor hero who we lost a couple of days ago, OSHA Region V compliance officer Rick Burns, who had retired from OSHA after 30 years of dedicated service to worker safety. In these times when we endure so much unjustified bashing of dedicated government workers, Rick stood out as some we should all be proud of.
As Department of Labor Regional Solicitor Patrick DePace remembered, if you knew Rick:
you would not question the use of the words “dedication for the safety of American workers”. He truly believed in the mission of OSHA. He had big cases and novel cases and contested cases but mostly he was a CSHO in the trenches who wasn’t afraid of any employer but was willing to help anybody if they wanted to do the right thing. He was beloved in the DOL family and respected and liked by employers and their representatives and attorneys. He was the heart and soul of the Columbus Area Office and he can never be replaced.
Whenever someone retires from OSHA, I remind them that there are people walking the earth today that would no longer be alive if it wasn’t for their efforts. Those they saved may not know it, but they have the luxury of living to a ripe old age surrounded by their families because of the dedicated efforts of OSHA staff.
Rick, however, had the rare privilege of seeing first-hand a life that he saved. In 2011, he directed a worker out of a 10-foot deep, unprotected trench just minutes before it collapsed, a cave-in that likely would have crushed the worker to death under six to seven feet of soil. His action was highlighted here.
So have fun today at your Labor Day picnics. Praise working people and bash Trump. Eat and drink. And while you’re there, take a moment to raise one for Rick and all of the dedicated government employees who are working for workers.