LEWISTON — Three leaders of worker solidarity and safety causes were honored Sunday by the Western Maine Labor Council at the 10th Annual Workers’ Memorial Day Dinner.

The event also recognized 14 Maine workers who died on the job in 2015. 

Don Berry, president of the Western Maine Labor Council, told more than 120 attendees at The Dolard and Priscilla Gendron Franco Center that “we must insist that we enforce and improve our workplace safety standards for all Maine workers.”

Berry also emphasized that budget cuts in the current economy must not be taken at the expense of safety in the workplace.

State Rep. Peggy Rotundo, D-Lewiston, received the evening’s principal accolade, the Frances Perkins Public Service Award. Rotundo has served in the Legislature since 2000, serving eight years in the Senate before being elected to the House. She has also served on many boards and commissions.

In her acceptance speech, Rotundo said, “We must always push back at attempts to take away safety.”

Perkins, in whose name the award is presented, was a resident of Damariscotta and principal architect of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal. She was the longest serving U.S. Secretary of Labor and the first woman appointed to that cabinet position.

Emery Deabay of Bucksport received the Western Maine Labor Council’s Workers’ Solidarity Award. He was recognized for his long service for United Steelworkers Local 1188 at the paper mill in Bucksport and for his tireless efforts to help legislative candidates.

“These awards don’t happen in a vacuum,” he said, telling the audience of friends and union coworkers that “every one of you is deserving of the Solidarity Award.”

Steven Keaton of China received the Bruce D. Roy Award for his work in collecting signatures to support a minimum wage bill in the Maine Legislature.

He was unable to attend the dinner.

The award is named for a paper worker who was an officer of the Maine AFL-CIO and who spent much of his career lobbying for laws to protect Maine workers and their families.

Democrat Emily Cain, a former state legislator and Maine Education Association union member, said Mainers must honor in memory and daily deeds the deceased workers who were victims of “needless and preventable” accidents.

Cain is a candidate for Maine’s 2nd Congressional District of the U.S. House of Representatives.

Rabbi Sruli Dresdner of Temple Shalom in Auburn offered the invocation and a closing prayer for fallen workers.

The Workers’ Memorial Day and May Day Dinner closed with the reading of the names of the 14 Maine workers who died in 2015.

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