Mejia Receives Award

By Angie Mangino

Staten Island Register

May 11-17, 2004

Rossville resident Guillermina Mejia will be one of five honorees at the May 14 award ceremony in Manhattan of the New York Committee for Occupational Safety and Health (NYCOSH) which is celebrating its 25th anniversary. 

Mejia is the principal program coordinator for safety and health, District Council 37, AFSCME. District Council 37 is the largest public employee union in New York City, with over 9,000 members and retirees living on Staten Island. 

Register readers will remember her as one of the Staten Islanders in City Council chambers who witnessed the shooting last July 23 that took the life of Councilman James Davis. Ironically, while she was there in support of the Councilman as he was advocating a bill to prevent workplace violence, she found herself standing in the balcony four feet directly opposite Othniel Askew, the shooter. 

NYCOSH will present the Karen Silkwood Award to Mejia for her day-to-day efforts to improve workplace safety for city workers. 

"NYCOSH has been a great resource and partner for me in ensuring the well-being of DC37 members," said Mejia. "Through NYCOSH's timely information and updates on safety and health issues; their efforts to promote legislation that has a positive impact on the work environment; and its excellent development programs; I am better prepared and equipped to address the concerns and needs of DC37 members."


Each year NYCOSH presents this award, named for Karen Silkwood, to a rank and file safety activist. 

Twenty-eight-year-old Karen Silkwood was a member of the Oil, Chemical and Atomic Workers and a chemical technician at the Kerr-McGee plutonium processing plant in Crescent, Oklahoma. She died on Nov. 13, 1974 while driving from a union meeting in Crescent. The Oklahoma State Highway Patrol received notification an hour later of a single car accident seven miles south of Crescent with the driver, Karen Silkwood dead at the scene from multiple injuries. 

Circumstances surrounding her death have been the subject of many books, articles and a motion picture entitled "Silkwood," with Meryl Streep portraying the union activist in the film. During the week just prior to her death, unexplainably exposed to plutonium, Silkwood was allegedly gathering evidence for the union to support her claim of negligence of Kerr-McGee in maintaining plant safety. Kerr-McGee closed its nuclear fuel plants in 1975.

The evening's other honorees include Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, Roger Toussaint, Omar Henriquez, and the World Trade Center Medical Screening Program at Mt. Sinai Hospital. 

"It is an honor to receive an award from NYCOSH," Senator Clinton said. "From defending OSHA's ergonomics regulation to providing Ground Zero workers with the best medical care available, it has been a pleasure to work with NYCOSH and I look forward to working with them in the future." 

Roger Toussaint is the president of Transport Workers Union Local 100. 

Omar Henriquez is the immigration campaign coordinator of Service Employees International Union, Eastern Region. 

"Each of our five honorees has shown an unswerving commitment to protecting and promoting the workplace safety and health of workers and volunteers in the New York City area," said William F. Henning Jr., chair of the NYCOSH Board of Directors. 

"Our awards ceremony will be an important opportunity for a broad cross-section of the occupational safety and health community – including political leaders, labor union officials, occupational healthcare workers, immigrant rights activists and rank and file safety and health activists – to share ideas and to socialize." 

NYCOSH is a non-profit coalition of more than 250 union organizations and more than 400 individual workers, physicians, lawyers and other health and safety activists. Part of a nationwide network of 25 union based safety and health organizations, NYCOSH is dedicated to the right of every worker to a safe and healthful job providing occupational safety and health training, advocacy and information to workers and unions throughout the metropolitan New York area.

copyright 2002 Staten Island Register