Colleen Ritzer among those honored on Workers Memorial Day

Worker Memorial Day with Tim Sullivan At a Workers Memorial Day commemoration, MTA Vice President Tim Sullivan emphasized the need for more mental health services in our schools. He is flanked by MassCosh staffer Mirna Montano and Mass AFL-CIO President Steve Tolman.

Danvers High School teacher Colleen Ritzer was among the 48 men and women honored at the Workers Memorial Day commemoration held outside the State House on April 28. The program was a solemn reminder of the tragedies that can happen in the workplace.

The Massachusetts Coalition for Occupational Safety and Health organized the tribute, which drew a large crowd of workers, labor leaders and legislators. Family members of those who died on the job in the past year also attended and placed pink roses on and around a banner bearing the names of the workers.

Members of Colleen Ritzer’s family could not attend, but sent a photo of the popular 24-year-old math teacher. Rich Butters of United Auto Workers Local 470, who regularly attends the annual Workers Memorial Day tribute, held a photograph of Ritzer. Marla Levenson, president of National Association of Government Employees Local R108, read the teacher’s name during the roll call of those being remembered. Ritzer was slain inside the school on Oct. 22, 2013. A student from the school is being tried in connection with the killing.

Worker Memorial Day with Colleen Ritzer photograph UAW Local 470 member Rich Butters was among the large crowd outside the State House to remember the 48 men and women, including Ritzer, who died on the job during this last year.

“It still seems unbelievable that Colleen died doing the only job she ever wanted to do: helping students succeed,” said MTA Vice President Tim Sullivan as he spoke to those gathered for the ceremony.

In pressing for ways to make schools safer for both educators and students, Sullivan made the case for increasing mental health services for young people. He noted that on average, there is only one school psychologist for every 1,200 students across the nation.

“If we truly want to honor those who have lost their lives on the job, it’s not enough to ask if we are making things better. Rather, we must commit ourselves to doing all that we can every single day to create safe schools and job sites of all types,” Sullivan said.

Part of the service was devoted to advocating for three pieces of legislation: One bill seeks to increase burial benefits available through workers' compensation; another aims to extend federal safety protections to state employees; and one would ensure that domestic workers would be covered by state and federal labor standards.

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