34th Annual Workers’ Memorial Day Held Friday

DES MOINES, Iowa -- It was a somber afternoon at the Wallace Building in Des Moines, as 34 people were honored.

“Christopher Thompson, 31. Stefan Watermann, 28…,” said Michael Mauro, Iowa Division of Labor Commissioner

The list Mauro was reading contained 34 names, including those of five police officers, one firefighter, and over a dozen construction workers. Everyone on that list had one thing in common: they all died while working.

“It’s like going to 34 funerals in one day. It wears on you, and needless to say that has an impact,” said Mark Cooper of the South Central Iowa Federation of Labor, AFL-CIO.

Friday was the 34th annual Workers' Memorial Day. The service provides two major purposes--to honor those who died while working and to provide support and connect the families that were left behind.

“Yes, it’s very nice. We’re not the only ones going through this, there are others out there that go through this same thing, unfortunately,” said Devon Tisor, wife of Patrick Tisor, who died in a workplace accident.

Tisor watched with her three children. She lost her husband in December after a factory accident in Burlington.

“Never in a million years would it have crossed my mind that he would go to work and get killed at work. I would have never guessed that. So just enjoy every moment because, as we all know, life is so short,” said Tisor.  

At the event, labor leaders from around the state urged employers and employees to review safety measures, because death can strike at any time in any profession.  

“Sometimes we get complacent when we go to work. We just need to make sure we pay attention to everyday occurrences to minimize the dangers to our employees' lives,” said Beth Townsend of Iowa Workforce Development.

One of the ways they want to combat this issue is by spreading awareness about how widespread it is.

“I think people would be surprised to find out that in the state of Iowa, on average, we lose one worker per week in an accident at a workplace,” said Cooper.