LOS ANGELES - The AFL-CIO national convention began its fourth and final day here with a somber tone as workers remembered the men and women who lost their lives during the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on this country. Six hundred of the victims were union members, and Harold Schaitberger, president of the International Association of Fire Fighters, took the time to talk briefly about them.
"Everyone will remember that morning, 12 years ago today," Schaitberger remarked. "It was a day when police, EMF workers, building trade workers, office workers, and restaurant workers saw their workplace turned into a battlefield, as terrorists launched an attack on the country.
"Out of the 600 union members who died, 343 were union firefighters. Many of these firefighters died trying to save the lives of others. Many firefighters that survived became sick from the lethal dust to which they were exposed during their rescue efforts.
"America's labor movement honored them by working together to pass the 9/11 Health and Compensation Act to provide medical monitoring, testing, and treatment for those who became ill as a result of exposure to those toxins."
Unionists also took to the Internet to comment on the anniversary of the disaster. Thomas C. Short, international president emeritus of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, Moving Picture Technicians, Artists, and Allied Crafts, lamented the lives lost during the attacks.
"IATSE members," he said, "like so many working people from so many fields, actively participated, contributing their skills, services, and time in the immediate aftermath of the September 11th attacks. Over 100 members of Local 52 Motion Picture Studio Mechanics were on the scene at Ground Zero, lighting it to facilitate the rescue operations. About an equal number or more members of Theatrical Stage Union, Local One, helped prepare the conversion of Yankee Stadium into the outdoor arena it became for the memorial service for the families of the firefighters, policemen, and rescue workers lost at the World Trade Center."
In coming times, Short concluded, "we will need the toughness, strength, and generosity that union members exhibited in response to the World Trade Center disaster."
And at the labor convention, as workers held a moment of silence for all those lost in the attacks, Schaitberger finished by saying, "Today, we honor those we lost. And while we continue to rebuild, we fight like hell for the living - to create safe jobs for workers today, and to create a stronger, more secure nation."
Photo: IAFF Local 801