Wednesday, December 19, 2007

walmart steel mill


Margaret Bourke-White. Otis Steel. 1928. Cleveland, O.
Today, just before nightfall, which this time of the year is late afternoon, I joined with some seventy people in a peaceful assembly to speak freely to Walmart, to ask them to treat their employees justly. The speakers in the crowd included a lutheran, and a baptist minister, and a communist high school student. The event was co-├Ârdinated by an inter religious task force, a sales clerk local and national labor justice organization. The last speaker was an older, possibly retired, steelworker, who told the group what had been on the grounds before: Otis Steel Co., then Jones & Laughlin Steel Corp., then LTV steel mill and dumping lagoon. The lagoon was part of the Cuyahoga river. A man was dressed up in full Santa Claus regalia, people held up placards and lit candles in cups. A couple tunes were sung with appropriate lyrics praying on the behalf of Walmart and their workers.

The assembly stood upon a grass strip next to a bus stop, with part of its throng facing the street, attracting some attention and honks from passing motorists. There was an outline of remaining snow piles along the edges and the air was windy with the temperature near 33°F.

A republican state representative was amongst the protesters. No media coverage was to be seen. This is not the sort of activity they cover. They had been down here covering the opening of different stores and the pre-opening waits for electronic consumer items, the day after Thanksgiving, and other shopping stories, but they have no interest in showing to any audience, any interference with
commerce: for these outfits pay for advertising in their mediums and as Coolidge said, in his statement which defines fascism, "the business of America is business". Shopping center and store security and management huddled, at a distance from the group, towards the back of a huge parking lot. Two cops, with bullet proof vests and vice squad identification, joined that group and then, suddenly, four police cruisers came and parked ajumbo about this knot of co-ordinating apprehension.

A police peloton came forward and their spokesman announced that the assembly was to break up and disperse, they were free to go and demonstrate beyond the shopping center drive. A group organizer told him that the action was very near ending. The policeman held up six fingers and said you have five minutes. In a short time people went on their ways. The largest business in the United States was free and the forces of the state kept it so.

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