Tuesday, August 24, 2010

A Strike

I've had many jobs in my life - jobs with lots of variety. I've been a clerk in the men and boy's department at J. C. Penney Co., a waitress at Bridgeman's, a computer operator at Northwestern Bell Telephone Company, a clerical clerk at Cutler Hammer, and a church secretary. I've worked in a bakery, ran a ceramic studio in my home - also taught piano lessons in my home, was a receptionist for a mortgage company, a service writer for a telephone equipment company, and am currently an assistant to the design director and production manager at a book publishing company.

Twenty five years ago right now, I was working at the George A. Hormel Company in the stock room, where I did accounting. At 3 pm, twenty five years ago today, I was called into the office and informed I was being laid off because the union workers were going on strike. This was a terrible time in the community where I lived. Picket lines formed outside the entrances to the plant. The strike lasted about five months and came to a bitter end when the company began calling the workers back. Violence erupted when any union employee dared cross the picket line to claim his job. The National Guard was called. The image of them burned into my memory is of the line they made just outside the entrance to the plant; bright, temporary spot lights shinning down on them. You could see their breath from the extreme, cold, January temperatures, and I also remember the sight of their white bunny boots. The reports of the violence made the national news daily - not the kind of news you want the world to know about your hometown. A small crew of news reporters flying down from the twin cities, got tangled in some power lines just outside of Austin, and crashed to their deaths.

I got called back to work around the second week of February. I wasn't a union worker, but worked for the office in the company, so I used a different entrance. The picket lines were still there, but by this time hundreds of cars were crossing every day. Little by little, life in our town was getting back to normal. The strike severed many friendships, and I even know of two brothers who won't speak to each other. One went back to work; the other refused to cross the line.

No comments: