Remembering union workers lost at the 41st annual Robert 0. Kortkamp Memorial Union Labor Mass

REMEMBERING UNION WORKERS we lost, the Rev. Dr. Teressa Mithen Danieley of the Episcopal Diocese of Missouri, presides over the Interfaith Prayer Service prior to the start of the 41st Robert O. Kortkamp Memorial Union Labor Mass on Sunday, May 2, at the Shrine of St. Joseph, Patron Saint of the Worker, in downtown St. Louis. – Labor Tribune photo

Union workers who passed away in 2019 and 2020-21 were remembered at the Greater St. Louis Labor Council’s 41st Robert 0. Kortkamp Memorial Union Labor Mass on Sunday, May 2, at the Shrine of St. Joseph at 11th and Biddle streets in downtown St. Louis.

Last year’s ceremony was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but union members and their families gathered this year for a socially distanced ceremony to remember those union members who, as a result of their job, lost their lives in 2019, 2020 and 2021:

  • Jonathan Castloo, Operating Engineers Local 513.
  • James King, Teamsters Local 688.
  • Shawn Pritchett, Operating Engineers Local 513.

They and others who passed away in in 2019, 2020 and 2021 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.

THE U.S. FLAG, hoisted between two St. Louis Fire Department ladder trucks, flies outside the Shrine of St. Joseph for the Greater St. Louis Labor Council’s 41st Union Labor Mass on May 2. – Sen. Doug Beck/Plumbers & Pipefitters Local 562 photo

Fr. Jim Beighlie celebrated mass inside the church.

“We are gathered here today to remember. We’ve done a lot of that over this last year,” Fr. Beighlie said. “Remembering always has this kind of sad or nostalgic tinge to it. We remember people who were friends, who were coworkers. People who mattered to us, to our community, to our world. We come, Lord, not just to remember or to look back longingly, we come to celebrate… to remember… lives well-lived.”

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.

The unions of the Greater St. Louis Labor Council host the annual Union Labor Mass on the Sunday following the national observance.

THE TOOLS OF THE TRADE – A shovel, a book, paper and pencil, a wrench, the Big Book, rally signs and an apron displayed by union members at the 41st Robert O. Kortkamp Memorial Union Labor Mass on Sunday, May 2. – Labor Tribune photo

Ed Finkelstein, publisher of the Labor Tribune, opened the service 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.
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:

  • THE SHOVEL symbolizes how deep we go in our meaningful daily work.
  • 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 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 retail 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 noted how the once simple telephone, is today a powerful computer we carry in our pocket, symbolizing the changes in our world and how they have changed and continue to change the face of our work.

Concluding, Finkelstein said: May the Souls of our Departed Brothers and Sisters here, and around the world, Rest in Peace.


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