Workers' Stories Archives
Highlights from Workers' Memorial Day 2016
Workers preserve and share their stories
Injured workers often face an array of difficulties following a diagnosis of a work-related injury or illness. Sometimes workers experience uncomplicated treatment and recovery. They may move through the experience smoothly and without much impact on their lives. However, others may require complicated medical treatment, and resulting in long or even permanent stretches out of work. These face a very different reality.
The financial impact of an occupational illness or injury can be particularly striking. Workers are burdened with both costs directly related to the medical care of their condition, and with coping with ongoing general expenses on a reduced income. Many patients report that their finances deteriorate and they find they are depleting savings, borrowing money, taking out retirement funds, and declaring bankruptcy in efforts to cope.
Emotionally, respondents almost universally reported their diagnosis and related issues were associated with depression, anxiety, and loss of identity and self-worth. Work-related injury or illness can extend far beyond the physical impact for injured workers. Existing systems fail to adequately compensate or rehabilitate injured workers, leaving them to their own devices to deal with their losses, medical or otherwise.
It is clear from our daily work with our own worker/patients as well as the observations of others that, while the physical impact of a work-related health condition may be quite severe on its own, psychological, financial, and social impacts typically make both the short and long term journey even more distressing.
Clarification of the injured worker's experience has important implications for the effective treatment of occupational injuries and illnesses. From the medical standpoint, barriers to care and psychological distress impede recovery, prolong and increase disability, and prevent return to work. From a moral standpoint, workers injured or made ill as a result of workplace conditions should be fully compensated, financially and otherwise, for their injuries and illnesses, rather than expected to suffer their losses in silence and alone.
The key barriers and problems injured workers face are systemic in nature. The impact of an occupational illness can be both broad and profound. Workers' stories are preserved here in order to create a more complete understanding of the injured worker's experience which may provide the necessary basis for overcoming the barriers and resolving the problems in the future.
FROM: MORE THAN MEETS THE EYE: SOCIAL, ECONOMIC, AND EMOTIONAL IMPACTS OF WORK-RELATED INJURY AND ILLNESS
By MICHAEL B. LAX and ROSEMARY KLEIN
PASO DEL NORTE - Migrant Farm Workers' A Long Journey to Central New York
By: Michael & Salamo Lax
In 2005 an explosion caused by a gas leak demolished a house where migrant workers were living while working at a fruit and vegetable farm in central New York. This is the story of those who survived, told mostly in their own words.