How perversely poetic an end for a working class martyr, pinned to his death by industrial machinery, a modern day crucifixion.
My father’s death should not have happened and is an example of how normalized the exploitation of workers has become.
My mom and dad were so looking forward to Wednesday. My dad even took the day off, which is a rarity. They were to celebrate finalizing the paperwork for the final payment on the house we moved into 20 years ago by meeting up for a lunch date. It’s sweet how my parents still did romantic things like that, calling each other ‘my love’ ironically and playfully in phone calls and stuff. My father never came home Tuesday night. He was pinned between the forklift he was operating and an industrial rack on Tuesday evening and his body was not found until workers came in the next morning.
All those days I remember my dad coming home exhausted and dirty from his various jobs, all to pay for a house and set me and my sisters up for success. How perversely poetic an end for a working class martyr, pinned to his death by industrial machinery, a modern day crucifixion. My dad often complained about how his employer viewed its workers as “just numbers,” about how they didn’t matter and the organization’s handling of his death proves him right. Why was he operating heavy machinery in isolation? Why did no one find him until the workers from the morning shift arrived hours and hours after it happened? Why was my mother not called and why did she herself have to go looking for answers frantically to the warehouse, then to HR headquarters? I ask these questions rhetorically, but if you’ve worked for ‘the man’ in your life, you know why. You know that the Almighty Dollar is worth more than our needs and well-being as employees. My mother asked him to leave if he hated it so much. He was very skilled after all, just lacking a college degree. He gave up on dreams of college, by the way, when I was born, opting to work full-time instead. He would always mention the benefits as a reason to stay.
It will be easy to read this as an example of one ‘bad’ company, but I’m in my hometown the same week the Wal-Mart that was shot up last year re-opens. I haven’t followed its reopening but I assume there was probably some rhetoric framing the re-opening as a way to “get on with our lives” and a “showing of strength.” And so a site that should be turned into a commemoration memorial returns to business as usual because we mustn’t get in the way of Uncle Wal-Mart and his Dollar. I imagine the warehouse where my dad died will follow a similar trajectory, if it’s not already open and back to normal.
Many of you have offered your support and told me to let you know if there’s anything you can do for me at this time. My only request then is to look around and reflect on what “normal” is in our society in regards to work. Is it normal to feel undervalued for the work you put in? Do you feel your employer would take care of you if an accident were to happen at work, or would it have a legal team ready to absolve itself from culpability? Weren’t machines and technology supposed to make the lives of workers easier instead of a means to pay us less? Why do so many of us feel strapped by invisible chains to our jobs? Is this the best we can do?