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Union leaders and lawmakers honor those who died on the job

April 29, 2006|By TIFFANY ARNOLD

The deaths of Roxbury Correctional Institutional Officer Jeffery Alan Wroten and the 12 men who worked the Sago coal mine framed the mood of union officials and lawmakers at the Workers Memorial Day program Friday.

"I know that when you kiss your wife and family good-bye, you want to be able to kiss your wife and family hello," said Seaven Gordon, of the United Steel Workers #20388. Workers Memorial Day was founded in April 28, 1989 as a day of remembrance for all those who have died on the job, said Teresa Martin, the union's recording secretary. April 28 also marks the passage of the Occupational Safety Health Act (OSHA) in 1970.

The law outlins workplace safety standards.

This year state, county and city lawmakers joined nearly a dozen union officials from the Central Maryland AFL-CIO, the American Federal, State, County and Municipal Employees and the United Steel Workers in honoring the late Jeffery A. Wroten and the 12 miners of the Sago Mine.

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"I didn't know officer Jeffery Wroten personally," said Hagerstown Mayor Robert E. Bruchey II, who was once a correctional officer. "I didn't have to. He wore the same uniform I wore."

Wroten was shot and killed at Washington County Hospital, where he was transporting inmate Brandon Morris. Morris, who is accused in the crime, is scheduled to stand trial July 31. Prosecutors said they plan to seek the death penalty.

The Sago workers died of carbon monoxide poisoning after an explosion Jan. 2 left them trapped in an underground mine in Upshur County, West Virginia. Only one of the 13 miners survived.

Union officials said that while the Sago Mine incident put a much-needed spotlight on the need to improve and enforce safety standards, they blamed federal lawmakers for not doing enough to ensure workplace safety.

"When people leave for the jobs the deserve to have the right to return to their families without fear of death," said Donald A. Forcino, president of the Central Maryland AFL-CIO Council.

A representative spoke on behalf of U.S. Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md. Other lawmakers speaking included Maryland Del. John P. Donoghue, D-Washington and Washington County Commissioners Vice President William Wivell.

Hagerstown councilwomen Penny May Nigh and Kelly S. Cromer also attended the event.

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