April 20, 2011

The Weekend: Brought to you by Labor Unions | From Wisconsin to Bangladesh to Boston to Greenfield | Black & White 120 Film Shot with a Yashica Mat!

Have you ever felt guided?  To a person? To a cause?  To a place?  To a theme?

In Boston over Spring Break, I noticed flyer taped to a lamp post for a rally in support of poorly paid tomato farmers organized by The Coalition of Immokalee Workers.  Ever the photojournalist, I jotted down the organizer's website.  I probably noticed the flyer since I was reading Kate Furnival's The Jewel of St Petersburg, a richly textured tale of class conflict and violence in revolutionary Russia.

Bye Bye Borders

A couple of days later, driving to meet a friend for lunch, I listened with increasing disbelief and mounting concern to a Democracy Now report tracing the parallels between the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire in New York, 100 years previously, where locked exit doors led to the death of young women workers, to a recent fire in a textile factory in Bangladesh, where again, locked exit doors fatally blocked routes to safety.

The Last Book Buyer?
After lunch, I headed to Newbury Street to photograph evidence of the bankrupt Borders bookstore chain.

Shoppers flocked to the nearby H&M store.  So I went in myself, looked at the labels of the nearest sweaters and knew before I could read the words that the country of origin was Bangladesh.  According to the Democracy Now report, young Bangladeshi women protesting for better working conditions are hosed with dye laden water to facilitate their arrests.

$9.95 - What is the True Cost?
"Where are all these groups of giddy young women coming from," I wondered.  Spring break shopping, perhaps? Some items were two for one.  Imagine drilling straight through the earth from Boston to Bangladesh to compare the lives of these young female shoppers with the young female sweatshop workers.

To find events to document, I signed up on the The Coalition for Immokolee Workers website for labor action alerts.  A week later, even before I received an email about the action, I heard about a rally on a community radio station.

Now Retired from Media, He Takes a Stand

Retired broadcaster Ted O"Brien spoke to the crowd, mentioning historical labor protests, such as the 1912 Bread and Roses textile strike in Lawrence, MA, led by women.

Carpenters Local 108 (Springfield, MA)

In solidarity with the labor protests in Wisconsin, a coalition of labor unions and citizens groups, such as Jobs with Justice, rallied in Greenfield, MA in support of rights for union labor and public workers.


The rally took place on April 4, the anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr's assassination.  At the time of his death, Dr. King was in Memphis to support the sanitation workers strike.

Spend some moments and contemplate these faces and messages:

Stop the War on the Working Class
A Tax on the Corporations - Not Attacks on Workers
Corporations are not People
Hard Hat Flag Stand


Greg said...

Inspiring pictures, John. Ted O'Brien! Yes, I remember.

John Nordell said...

Hello Greg. Thanks for the support. Interesting the way O'Brien told me that since he is out of media, he can now speak out on issues. I sometimes feel this blog wavers between reporting and opinion...