By TIM ROWDEN
More than 50 union members and their families gathered at the Shrine of St. Joseph, the Patron Saint of the Worker, in downtown St. Louis Sunday, May 5, for the 40th Robert O. Kortkamp Memorial Union Labor Mass and Interfaith Prayer Service to remember those union members who passed away, were killed on the job or died as a result of a work-related injury or illness over the past year.
This year, union members especially remembered Ronald Pointer, 55, of Granite City, a concrete cutter with 30 years of experience, who was working for Merlin Stelzer Services when he was killed in a construction accident on Aug. 2, 2018 at the Menard Correctional Center in Chester.
Brother Pointer was survived Susan (Saller) Pointer, whom he married on October 10, 1998; children, Bryan Pointer of Granite City, Agnes Pointer of Granite City, and Edith Pointer of Granite City; his mother mom, Winnie (Williams) Pointer of Granite City; brothers, Larry Pointer of Granite City, Bob Pointer of Granite City; mother-in-law Clara Saller of St. Louis; and numerous brothers-in-law, sisters-in-law, cousins and many other close family members and friends.
Ronald Pointer “was loved by everyone during his 30-plus-year career with Merlin Stelzer Services,” the company wrote on its Facebook page. “Ron was a seasoned professional concrete cutter with our services division. Ron was highly respected, loved, and one of the nicest people you could meet. We are all deeply saddened and grieving over this loss.”
WORKERS’ MEMORIAL DAY AND UNION LABOR MASS
Every April 28, the unions of the AFL-CIO observe Workers’ Memorial Day to remember those who have been injured, contracted an illness, or died as a result of unsafe and hazardous working conditions. The date is the anniversary of the Federal Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA), which was enacted on April 28, 1970.
The unions of the Greater St. Louis Labor Council host the annual Union Labor Mass the week following the national observance.
This year’s program started with an Interfaith Labor Prayer Service in the sunny courtyard outside the shrine, presided by the Rev. Dr. Teressa Mithen Danieley of the Episcopal Diocese or Missouri, followed by a traditional Blessing of the Bread conducted by Friar Ed Mundwiller of St. Anthony of Padua.
Mass was celebrated by St. Louis Archbishop Robert J. Carlson, with Father Richard Creason and Friar Mundwiller.
The St. Louis Fire Department provided an honor guard.
TOOLS OF THE TRADE
Ed Finkelstein, publisher of the Labor Tribune, opened the service with the procession of the Tools of the Trade, honoring and recognizing the various skills and crafts that make up the union workforce:
Today, we are part of the ongoing celebration of the vital significance of union workers, their lives and their craftsmanship.
Recognizing the dignity of work, accompanied by its physical and mental demands, we bring to the altar the tools of the trade as symbols of the varied machines, equipment and instruments union workers use every day to build, to educated, to connect, to create and to care for our community:
- THE SHOVEL symbolizes how deep we go in our meaningful daily work.
- THE BOOK, PAPER AND PENCIL symbolize all the teachers, journalists, social workers and novelists who educate children and adults to make this a better world.
- THE WRENCH symbolizes workers who create, build and repair the machines that make our lives easier.
- THE BIG BOOK represents the hope for recovery for the many members and families who struggle to overcome addiction.
- THE SAXOPHONE symbolizes how musicians and poets inspire beauty and inspiration in our troubled world.
- THE SIGN reminds us of the tens of thousands of workers mobilizing today like never before for better wages, working conditions and dignity on the job.
- THE APRON reminds us that tens of thousands of retails workers in the food, retail and so many other service industries work tirelessly every day to help us in our daily lives.
Finally, holding up his own mobile phone, Finkelstein said: This, once only a simple telephone, is today a powerful computer we carry in our pockets and purses. It symbolizes the changes in our world… and how quickly computers are changing the face of work.
May the Souls of our Departed Brothers and Sisters here, and around the world, Rest in Peace.