FIGHTing for What is Right
At the Missouri Worker’s Compensation Conference, Ron Hayes, director of the FIGHT project, provided attendees with a moving speech regarding workplace injuries. Hayes and his wife founded the FIGHT project, which stands for families in grief holding together, in 1993 after their son, Patrick, was killed from being suffocated in a grain silo accident.
On the day of Patrick’s death, Hayes and his wife, Dot, attempted to retrieve answers about what had happened, as well as why and how. However, they were greeted with a cold shoulder and left with many unanswered questions that evening at the police station. Already grief stricken, Hayes became angry with the way he had been treated that night and with many similar roadblocks that followed. “I left that night thinking nobody else will ever experience this treatment again if I can help it,” Hayes said, and that is exactly what he has being trying to do ever since.
The FIGHT project is a non-profit organization designed to help families gather information about work-related deaths and injuries. “We help them figure out the process of what they’re about to be going through by giving them a shoulder to lean on,” said Hayes. Anytime someone going through a loss needs to talk, he or she can call Hayes’ toll free phone number and he will be there ready to listen. “Part of the reason we started the FIGHT project was because we knew there would be people that need help, but couldn’t afford it, and this way they can call anytime from anywhere,” he added. Moreover, once someone contacts him, he sends them a book and articles concerning grief and stories of others who are going through similar situations. FIGHT also serves as a channel for these families by putting them into contact with various individuals such as attorneys or even doctors that can help provide them with answers and hopefully uncover the truth.
Perhaps the most inspiring part of the FIGHT project is the fact that neither Hayes nor anyone else affiliated earns a profit from the organization. He works with several reporters around the country in order to provide them with information about workplace injuries, as well as collaborating with various government agencies, but he does it all for free. “I’ve had people tell me I’d be a millionaire by now if I would charge something, and I just tell them that’s not what I’m trying to accomplish here.” Anytime there is a donation made to the organization, it goes straight into providing materials and support for the families that contact Hayes.
Hayes is the only unpaid person in history to serve on the National Advisory Committee on Occupational Safety and Health, making him the true workers’ advocate. By working for free, Hayes is able to speak his truth 100 percent of the time, without having to hold back because of some type of subsidy. “I’ve got no reason to lie because I’ve got nothing to lose; I’ve already lost what is most important.”
When asked if he still felt that same driving force to help others that began in 1993 with the loss of his son, Hayes responded, “My passion will die when I die.” He added, “I’m going to keep doing what I’m doing right now as long as there is one person hurt or killed, I’ve got to keep trying because I owe it to Pat.”