MassCOSH turns 40

May 15, 2017

For Susan Shepard, MassCOSH’s 40th Anniversary Gala seemed a bit surreal. Just about four decades ago, she and a handful of very progressive labor advocates were meeting in various union halls, discussing the occupational health and safety ideals that would soon give birth to a new organization: the Massachusetts Coalition for Occupational Safety & Health. Now, under an ornate dome in the Lennox Hotel’s elegant ballroom, Shepard and many of her colleagues-tuned-MassCOSH-cofounders were celebrating what few of them thought possible: four fruitful decades of MassCOSH fighting for working people.

Held this past April 6, MassCOSH was proud to host new and long-term members, families of those affected by unsafe work, attorneys, elected officials, union members, and immigrant workers all in one room, reflecting one of MassCOSH’s greatest strengths – a highly diverse community dedicated to ending unsafe jobs.

With Master of Ceremonies Senator Linda Dorcena Forry kicking off the program portion of the event, MassCOSH was proud to use this special evening to honor champions of working people, including General Secretary-Treasurer of the International Association of Firefighters Ed Kelly, Massachusetts State Treasurer Deborah B. Goldberg, Massachusetts Senator Marc R. Pacheco, and Massachusetts Representative James J. O'Day, along with the family of the late Ricardo R. Oliveira.

“It was a very, very powerful awards ceremony,” said Shepard. “Each acceptance speech was tied deeply to MassCOSH’s mission, but it was the White family, who lost their son Ricardo, that really drove home the need for safe jobs.”

MassCOSH was humbled to award David White, his wife Rosane, and his son Chris, along with Chris’s wife Amanda, with the Family Leadership Award. Since the Whites lost their son to a tragic and all too common construction fall, MassCOSH has been in awe of their dedication to creating a quilt memorial to honor workers who have lost their lives due to hazardous work. The memorial made its public unveiling at the gala in a room designed for quiet contemplation.

“The quilt itself was very powerful, but the Whites’ acceptance speech really reminded everyone why we are working towards a future where workplace death and injury are a thing of the past,” said MassCOSH Director of Programs and Policy Al Vega. “You could hear the heartbreak in David’s voice and how glad he was that there was an organization and people out there looking to help families like his during such a difficult time, while also working to prevent such life-shattering loss in the future.”

The gala also allowed former MassCOSH Executive Director Marcy Goldstein-Gelb to ceremonially pass a bullhorn decorated for the occasion to MassCOSH’s new director Jodi Sugerman-Bozan.

“It was a real honor to take over leadership of MassCOSH as over 250 supporters looked on,” said Sugerman-Bozan. “It’s very clear I have some big shoes to fill, but with that many supporters out there so dedicated to working people, I have no doubt MassCOSH has many more major anniversary and victory celebrations to come.”
40 years was not the only record MassCOSH set that evening. With the support of labor advocates far and wide, MassCOSH’s gala raised just over $99,500 in donations and pledges, a phenomenal success that will have a lasting impact on the organization’s capacity.

“It was an evening I don’t think many will forget for a long time,” said Vega.