Union members remember workers lost at 44th Annual Union Labor Mass

REMEMBERING UNION WORKERS who died on the job or passed away in 2023-24, the Rev. Dr. Teressa Mithen Danieley of the Episcopal Diocese of Missouri, presides over the Interfaith Prayer Service prior to the start of the 44th Annual Union Labor Mass Sunday, April 28, 2024, at the Shrine of St. Joseph, patron saint of the worker, in downtown St. Louis.  – Labor Tribune photo


St. Louis – Union workers who died on the job or passed away in 2023-24 were remembered at the 44th Annual Union Labor Mass and Interfaith Prayer Service here on April 28 at the Shrine of St. Joseph, the patron saint of the worker in downtown St. Louis.

Special remembrance was given to:

  • Adam Wolf, a first-year Iron Workers Local 396 apprentice.
  • Timothy Buescher, a 25-year IBEW Local 1 electrician.
  • The workers killed when a cargo ship crashed into the Francis Scott Key Bridge in Baltimore on March 26, collapsing the bridge.

They and other local union members who passed away in 2023-24 were recognized and remembered with an interfaith prayer service in the church courtyard officiated by the Rev. Dr. Teresa Mithen Danieley of the Episcopal Dioceses of Missouri, followed by a traditional Blessing of the Bread conducted by Friar Ed Mundwiller of St. Anthony of Padua.

“Today we remember all workers who have been injured as a result of occupational illness, accident or trauma while earning their livelihood,” Danieley said. “We also remember especially the workers who were killed on the bridge in Baltimore. We remember all who were killed by occupational diseases.

“We remember those who were lost with great fondness, they gave much to our world as individuals, family members, friends and colleagues at work. We remember their families, especially Adam’s and Tim’s family and friends as they continue to grieve.”

Every April 28, the unions of the AFL-CIO across America 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.

On an average day, 150 workers lose their lives as a result of workplace injuries and occupational diseases.

This year’s event was co-sponsored by the St. Louis Building and Construction Trades Council and the Missouri Alliance for Retired Americans.

“Today we honor our union brothers and sisters who have passed away,” said Mike Louis, president of the Missouri Alliance for Retired Americans and retired president of the Missouri AFL-CIO.

“We especially honor those who, during their days’ work, paid the ultimate sacrifice of giving their lives. May we remember Adam Wolf Iron Workers Local 396, Tim Buescher IBEW Local 1 and the workers who were repairing the road on the Francis Scott Key Bridge when their lives came to a tragic end.”

Louis opened the service inside the church with the procession of the Tools of the Trade, honoring and recognizing many of 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,” Louis said.
“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 educate, to connect, to create and to care for our community”

Louis then called forward the procession of the tools, which union members carried down the church aisle and placed at the altar as Louis narrated:

  • THE SHOVEL symbolizes how deep we as workers go in our meaningful daily work. We share our rewards with our families and community.
  • THE BIG BOOK represents the hope for recovery for the many members and families who struggle to overcome addiction.
  • THE WRENCH symbolizes workers who create, build and repair the machines that make our lives easier both at work and at home.
  • THE SAXOPHONE symbolizes how musicians, poets and authors inspire beauty and inspiration in our troubled world.
  • THE APRON reminds us that tens of thousands of retail workers in the food, retail and so many other service industries who work tirelessly every day to help us in our daily lives.
  • THE BOOK, PAPER AND PENCIL symbolizes all the teachers, journalists, social workers and novelists who educate children and adults to make this a better world.
  • THE SIGN reminds us of the tens of thousands of workers mobilizing today like never before for better wages, for working conditions and secure and fair, and dignity on the job. May their strength and determination persevere as they daily to get those rights.
  • THE TELEPHONE. This was only a simple telephone but it was the beginning of how powerful computers would become. It symbolizes the changes in our world and how fast computers are changing the face of work.

Louis concluded: “May the souls of our departed brothers and sisters here and around the world rest in peace. Amen.”

Father Bob Suite, All Saints Catholic Church, celebrated mass. In his homily, he expanded on the biblical command to bear fruit with a call to work for health and safety on the job to honor those workers who have passed.

“There’s a saying, talk-the-talk, but the real people are those people who walk-the-walk. It’s not just about speaking, it’s not just about words, but it’s about putting those words into action,” Father Suite said. “We pray for those remembered today that we can be their fruit. We not only pray for them as we do this morning. We not only talk about them and remember them, but put their lives into action in our lives. So the more that we can work for safety in our companies and our workplaces, the more that we can follow ways of safety. We can bring forth those things in our lives.”

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