Sixty-six Iowans were killed on the job last year and some legislators are trying to ensure the families get the two-foot symbol the state made to mark each death. Each spring, state officials hold an outdoor memorial service near the state capitol to honor Iowans who die on the job. A white cross is planted in the ground for each worker who died during the previous year, and Senator Tom Courtney of Burlington is part of a small team of legislators who give those crosses to the families. It’s often a poignant moment, as some of the honored workers have been dead almost a year. “The senators (who) do this say it’s really an emotional thing when they take (the cross) to the family,” Courtney says. “They’re real simple, just two sticks of wood,” Courtney says. This year’s workers’ memorial ceremony featuring the crosses took place April 28th. “Kind of a nice thing for Iowa to do, I think,” says Courtney, who worked at the Case plant in Burlington as the union representative responsible for safety in the facility. Courtney and his crew of senators who volunteer to deliver the crosses to the families haven’t been able to track down the family of one of the workers who died this past year. It was a man who was a transient worker who died on a construction site and listed a motel in Rock Valley as his address. “No one knew anything about him,” Courtney says. “That’s kind of sad.” Courtney says many Iowans are touched by workplace injury and death. For instance, just a couple of years ago, his barber’s son died. The man went to repair a forklift, jacked it up, crawled under the forklift and the jacks failed. He was crushed to death, just hours after he’d stopped at his mother’s house for coffee before work. “He had nothing in his mind about dying that day. He was just working for a living,” Courtney says. “I thought that was so sad and I told that little story on the floor of the Senate and it kind of got to me because this happens every day. People just go to work, just do their job, just pay their taxes, keep a roof over their head and they die.” Courtney delivered a cross this past weekend to the family of Trace Dossett of Wapello. Dossett, who was 32, was a member of the Guard who died during military duty in Iraq.
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