Monday, August 1, 2011

Asbestos abated, crisis averted

Good news!  The crew under CES has worked all night and the asbestos crisis has been averted. The random test samples have proven negative. We are officially certified to reenter. The show will go on...
The Justice Will Be Served  anti-sweatshop team has  gathered in the sanctuary. Ready to hit the streets of the neighborhood to approach more businesses to sign the pledge to observe minimal labor standards. Just what the law requires would be a good beginning. Tracy, the organizer, has all kinds of questions.  I tell her of my background, growing up in Pittsburgh My ten years in Oklahoma doing urban ministry. My work with the farm workers. (Who can forget those menudo breakfasts? Tripe stew at 7 AM. The t shirts they had reading Menudo: El desayuno de los, breakfast of champions). My international work in Central America and the Middle East. My ten years in Pittsburgh. Work in the public housing projects. The collapse of the steel industry. My friendship with Barney, how he left steel worker organizing to become an unemployed organizer, the Mon Valley Unemployed Committee. 
I’m surprised that Tracy knows nothing of the 1892 Homestead Steel Strike. How Carnegie and Frick brought in the Pinkertons as a private army. That she doesn’t know about the Pinkertons, the Halliburtons of their day.  And how the steel workers and the community held off the Pinkertons for nine days. It was just awhile, says Barney, but sometimes awhile means a lot. The Lutheran pastors, profiled in the documentary the Fighting Ministers, who barricaded themselves in their churches when the hierarchy rejected their support of the steel workers in the early 80’s. Renegade organizer Charles Honeywell and the provocative  Denominational Ministry Strategies (later DMX) cadre.  The devastation of the Mon Valley as the industry collapsed and the exodus from Pittsburgh. She needs to know this American labor history. She wants to know if I consider myself a labor organizer. No, no, no. But I have lived in solidarity with those who  do. My relationship with Rabbi Michael and the Religion Labor Coalition.  I need to get to a family birthday party so I wish them well. 
Later that night, I stop by the  speakeasy. Talk with a young man who is a sound tech. Developing new technologies for the recording industry. Working with theatre companies. And his girlfriend.  Two couples  are dancing in the kitchen. Eugena has given her keys to CES so I will need to lock up. We move everyone out. Go through the building, turning off all the lights. We get to the last switch, turn it off. As the lights go out, Eugena says, And good night moon.

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