Things are looking up dramatically for me on a personal level. This morning I was at the hospital to meet fellow Kossack GreenHills for lunch and the kidney stone that has been plaguing me passed with just a little bit of pain.
Later I got a chance to interview a fellow traveler I met while staying in the shelter. I’ve found a miserable story of an abusive corporate employer, a crying need for union protections for workers, a health care system straining under the load; a story that must be told, over and over, until we’re again citizens of this country, rather than disposable consumer wage slaves.
GreenHills, a graduate student within the University system, and I had a nice lunch, talking about my health, her studies, and the massive systemic problems our health care system faces. We parted ways with an agreement to continue to exchange emails to see what we might be able to DO about these problems, and I may get together with she and her husband later this week,, as he wants to work in an area that is related to my field.
I went back to the shelter after lunch and I picked up David W., a fellow traveler in our broken medical system with an equally horrid story of worker mistreatment at the hands of Tyson Meats in their Columbus Junction, Iowa plant.
David, 49, left behind wife Pam, 44, daughter Bertina, 13, son Malik, 10, in Chicago and journeyed to little Columbus Junction, Iowa, population 600, to take an $11/hour meat cutting job. The long term goal was to establish himself in Columbus, then get his wife and kids out of a less than optimal Chicago neighborhood.
The first two months went very well for this polite, hard working man, then disaster struck. We’ve had terrible ice storms in the area. David slipped and fell in the parking lot after work, breaking his ankle.
What was most important in the hours after David’s injury? His well being? His prompt access to medical care? Nope, not a bit. Tyson held this man for OVER FOUR HOURS after the injury, testing him for drugs and alcohol, then badgering him for two different written statements before they’d transport him to the doctor. Oh, do I even have to say it? One does not have health insurance with an $11/hour job.
Tyson put David on light duty, sorting, cleaning, and doing support work for the other meat cutters, but in the background they began making the moves to discharge him in such a fashion that he would not qualify for workmen’s comp. GreenHills, a long time resident of the region who has worked in the mental health field confirmed this practice for me over lunch – Tyson’s treatment of workers is famously bad, with anyone who is sick or injured being pushed out and shortchanged in the process.
Tyson’s behavior runs a little deeper than just this. David tells me that most of the workers at the plant are Hispanic, many are Mexican nationals working here on sketchy papers, and that their presence often positions Tyson to pull this sort of stuff without any consequences. We talked about it and we agree that the illegal immigrants here are a problem ... until they have the same protections in employment that citizens have so that large employers can’t do these sorts of things. Tyson desperately needs some union attention, and the sort of union that takes WORKERS, regardless of their origins, and uses their collective power for the good of all.
Tyson transported David to the Iowa City bus station with a ticket home, but they refused to pay the $125 Greyhound wanted to ship his personal effects. Broke, hurt, and unwilling to surrender all of his possessions David elected to be dropped off at the shelter. He contacted a local attorney who is representing him in these matters and has been at the shelter now two weeks, constrained by his ankle and the miserable conditions here, which have left several inches of ice on every side street and sidewalk in the area.
I met David Friday night when I was at the shelter. Everyone else ignored me as I sat in the downstairs common room and pecked away on my laptop, but he stuck out his hand and introduced himself, then proceeded to quiz me about what I was doing. The next day he, I, and another resident went out and made the homeless guy rounds (Goodwill, pawn shop, a free lunch from one of my business contacts), and during the process I bought David a $6 cane at a local shop.
Not one to lay around and wait for things to come to him, and having his mobility somewhat restored with the cane, David promptly ventured onto the city bus system and got himself a job interview with the Goodwill program, which I expect will yield him a $9/hour job half time where they’ll work around the fact that he is convalescing from a fairly serious injury.
This man has an American dream, an Iowan dream; a little house in the country with a safe school system and a big garden for his wife. He was working with all of his will as his talents and education allowed when struck down by an accident. Upon receiving a $6 kindness from a stranger he promptly got back up and resumed his march in the face of everything our foul Corporatocracy and broken health care system can throw at him. Here is another man who will wrap his bootstraps around the neck of some Republican's career after he gets done using them to pull himself up.
What can we do for this man? Nothing directly, dear Kossacks, just as was my case – both David and I are going to "get over" with a little help from friends and acquaintances, but there are forty seven million people in this country who get up every day and roll the dice on whether they can safely cross an icy parking lot on the way into work, or whether they can keep going with a somewhat mysteriously glandular condition.
There are people who may have just a little bit worse luck than David and I. People who will not meet a kind stranger, not get a free meal or a cane, and thusly people who will fail. Despite the constant noise from the right regarding the need for self sufficiency these people will fail not of their own accord, but instead because the deck has been totally and complete stacked against them by a Corporatocracy that treats the politicians we elect and their votes as commodities to be bought and sold, and individuals as consumers and/or wage slaves, but never as human beings.
I'm ready now, people. Bring the local reporters. Bring the TV stations. This story is white hot and I want it everywhere. I'd like to hear comments below as to how we get this done.