State Sens. John Patrick and Troy D. Jackson attend the Western Maine Labor Council’s Worker’s Memorial Day Dinner at the Dolard and Priscilla Gendron Franco Center in Lewiston on Sunday night. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal

LEWISTON — Almost two-dozen workers who died last year in job-related accidents were honored at the 11th annual Workers’ Memorial Day and May Day Dinner at the Dolard and Priscilla Gendron Franco Center on Sunday.

Ed Marzano, Mike Labbe and Patrick Curran were honored at the Western Maine Labor Council’s Workers’ Memorial Day Dinner at the Dolard and Priscilla Gendron Franco Center in Lewiston on Sunday night. The three were part of the Ryder Strikers, teamsters employed at a Ryder Truck facility in Lewiston who were on strike for three weeks in November and December. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal

The event was sponsored by the Western Maine Labor Council, AFL-CIO.

“We’re doing better, but we are still not where we need to be,” said Don Berry, president of the Western Maine Labor Council.

The number of worker deaths has been 38 or higher in recent years, he said.

Nationally, there were 4,035 job-related deaths in 2015, and the improving record in Maine is significant, but still “unacceptable,” Berry said.

The annual dinner was attended by about 130 union members and officials.

With presentation of three awards at the dinner, Berry said, “We gather to salute some of our own labor champions who have gone above and beyond in support of Maine workers.”

“This is the greatest honor I have ever received,” said Maine Sen. John L. Patrick of Rumford, who received the prestigious Frances Perkins Public Service Award.

Patrick has been a journeyman mechanic for the Catalyst Paper Co. in Rumford for 36 years. He is former president of the United Paperworkers Union Local 900 and has been actively involved in the Maine Citizen Trade Policy Commission since 2004.

The award is named for Frances Perkins, a Maine native who was the longest serving U.S. Secretary of Labor. She was the first woman to be appointed as a U.S. Cabinet member and she worked successfully to include the Labor movement in President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal.

Troy Jackson, who presented the award, called Patrick “a working-class hero.”

Seven members of Teamsters Local 340, known as The Ryder Strikers, were named recipients of the Worker Solidarity Award. They were employed at a Ryder Truck rental and maintenance facility in Lewiston when they determined that they needed to walk off the job in support of labor demands this past November and December. For three weeks, they maintained a picket line at the driveway entrance to the facility — 24 hours a day, seven days a week — taking a break only for Thanksgiving Day.

Their award recognized “a significant demonstration of determined and dedicated workers connecting with others in their community to fight an important battle.”

Robert Burns, who worked for Central Maine Power for 34 years, was honored posthumously at the Western Maine Labor Council’s Workers’ Memorial Day Dinner at the Dolard and Priscilla Gendron Franco Center in Lewiston on Sunday night. His family, seated in the front row, are, from left, Robby Burns, Autumn Purrington, Jason Purington, Tiger Burns and Juanelle Benson-Burns. Standing in the second row are, from left, Louann Burns, Marcel Doucette, Laurie Burns- Doucette, Grady Burns, Kirsten Lamiette, Tamara Benson and Jason Benson. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal

Presenting the award was Cynthia Phinney, president of the Maine AFL-CIO.

The Bruce D. Roy Solidarity Award was given posthumously to Robert “Bob” Burns of Auburn.

Longtime Maine legislator Peggy Rotundo, who made the presentation, recalled characteristics that earned Burns the nickname “Auburn’s grandfather.”

Burns, who died at the age of 81 following a traffic accident several weeks ago, had been employed for 34 years by Central Maine Power Co. He was an active member of IBEW Local 1837.

The award noted that Burns was “a fixture and a role model for an entire generation within the labor movement in central and western Maine. His humility, optimism and determination to lift up others made him an admired comrade and mentor.”

Members of his family were in attendance at the dinner.

Rachel Desgrosseilliers, executive director of Museum L-A, spoke about the early days of mill works in the Twin Cities.

“I am the daughter of mill workers and I’m very proud of it,” she said.

Her talk, titled “It was HARD work,” detailed life in the local mills. She said the museum has collected about 300 oral histories.

The dinner opened with presentation of the colors by the Lewiston Fire Department Color Guard and bagpiper Sue Mack. The invocation was delivered by the Rev. Jodi Cohen Hayashida of First Universalist Church in Auburn.


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