LEWISTON — Twenty-one Maine workers who died on the job in 2018 were honored Sunday night at the Western Maine Labor Council’s 13th annual Workers’ Memorial Day/May Day Dinner.

The event, which was hosted at the Gendron Franco Center, is meant to honor the deceased workers and to “renew the commitment to protect workers’ health and safety,” according to Elaine Makas of the Western Maine Labor Council.

Before the workers who passed away were memorialized, the Western Maine Labor Council presented three awards to people who have fought for workers’ rights and safety over their careers.

The Kennebec Valley CAP Drivers in Augusta received the Workers’ Solidarity Award, given to a person, union or group that has advanced the interests of working people through organizing.

The KVCAP drivers were recognized for voting in March to form a union in response to a change in their work rules that resulted in a cut in holiday pay and scheduling issues.

Tom Fallon of Rumford, a retired member of the United Steelworkers 900 and a poet, received the Bruce D. Roy Solidarity Award.

The award, according to the Western Maine Labor Council, is given each year to “a leader who has dedicated much of his or her lifetime to strengthening workers’ organizations and improving the lives of working people.”

Fallon was recognized Sunday night for his poetry and prose about his experience working at the Rumford Paper Mill.

“I’m sincerely humbled by this,” he said to the audience upon receiving the award.

Mary Anne Turowski, who was recently hired as a policy adviser to Gov. Janet Mills, received the Frances Perkins Award, given to someone who has improved the lives of workers through public service or public policy.

As the dinner and ceremony came to an end, Rabbi Sruli Dresdner gave a prayer in honor of the fallen workers. Shortly after, volunteers walked to the front of the Franco Center’s stage, holding up pieces of paper with the names and occupations of those who passed away on the job in 2018, while Sue Mack, a Pownal farmer, played “Amazing Grace” on the bagpipes.

Charlotte Brody, vice president of the BlueGreen Alliance, was the guest speaker of the event and spoke about the importance of recognizing not only workers who died on the job, but workers who were exposed to dangerous chemicals on the job and died years later as a result.

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Award Winners at the Western Maine Labor Council’s 13th Annual Worker’s Memorial Day Dinner are, seated: Judy Lumpert, Tom Fallon, Mary Anne Turowski, standing: Ron Burnham, Don Parker, Susan McGuire, Peter Nielsen and Eric Edmondson. Sun Journal photo by Andree Kehn

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