June 16, 2015

A tribute to Tony Mazzocchi, a root ingrained in the labor movement

Kristina Mazzocchi is the daughter of a legendary occupational health and safety activist, a resonating voice within the labor movement, and so much more: Tony Mazzocchi. Professionally, Kristina is a lawyer for a workers’ rights-centered legal practice that focuses on workplace health and safety. She is an activist and organizer for all workers, continuously and courageously keeping her father’s lifelong work and memory alive. Matters of her career consist of asbestos and environmental tort cases, and general employment and labor affairs. Kristina is currently structuring a partnership with three other attorneys developing a foundation, where profits gained from asbestos cases will be returned to occupational safety and health. In honor of her father’s birthday this month, Kristina shared her personal reflections and photos of Tony Mazzocchi.

By Kristina Mazzocchi

FlippTony Mazzocchiing through the many photos that I have of my father, Tony Mazzocchi, I came across one that really struck me. Not because of its historical importance or depiction of him fighting the good fight, of which there are many. It is just a picture of him casually standing in front of a large redwood tree with his hand resting on a sign reading, “THE IMMORTAL TREE.”  The tree is over 950-years-old and apparently survived great floods, lightning strikes, the attack of loggers and just the plain ol’ havoc of time. My father was a visionary labor leader, progenitor of the occupational safety and health movement, friend, ally, and mentor to thousands, father of six, grandfather to seven, and great grandfather to one.

Let Tony Mazzocchi forever be the immortal tree: His roots, his ideas, planted deep into the consciousness of the labor and occupational safety and health movements, and of anyone who was lucky enough to share a meal at his table. Let him be a reminder of what we have accomplished, and what there is still left to do. The United Steelworkers Tony Mazzocchi Center for Health, Safety and Environmental Education does this every day.

As a movement builder, he had the unique capacity to inspire, agitate, instigate, and galvanize really anyone who came into contact with him leaving no one out. Workers, students, scientists, doctors, presidents, professors, environmental activists, public health professionals, all of them, all of us, instantly transformed into deep-thinking, dedicated doers, committed to being the branches of the Tony Mazzocchi tree.

Now that I am working with and representing workers inflicted with occupational diseases – such as asbestos and other occupational exposures – while also working with immigrant workers to organize against the health and safety abuses they are subjected to, I take every opportunity to try and inspire more committed visionaries and doers, more branches on the Tony Mazzocchi tree. Recently, I was working with Mahoma Lopez, leader of the Laundry Workers Center, a NYC-based worker center, and he showed me a presentation he was giving to immigrant workers across the city. There on one of the slides read, “A worker has the right to return home safely and alive at the end of the day.” Mahoma told me that he heard me saying this when talking about my father’s work, and why I do the work that I do. Now that quote will be one of the mantras of the new labor movement – a new branch of the tree is growing.

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