The government is shut down for political reasons.
This shutdown is not a strike. They are different. The workers have not walked off the job. It's been awhile but we have had strikes held in this area.
In 1935 the mine workers in Ottawa County and into Kansas held a strike that closed the mines down. Our miners worked in some of the worse conditions in the country. They were hoping to improve their conditions by shutting down the mines and were led to believe the International Union would help get them by during the strike, but the help didn't come. Then the mining companies organized their own "worker's union" and hired only those who joined it. Work started back up, but actual safety and wages didn't improve, the men just got to work again. They were duped by the companies and made to believe the "other" union members were communists, creating a dangerous time for them, and drumming up loyal squads to hurt them with pick handles. It was a hard time that got harder and gained the workers nothing. In Union Busting in the Tri-State by George G. Suggs, Jr., I learned those times are much like these, we are asked to fear the "other" and put up with less.
The Dobson Memorial Center has clear photos of the B. F. Goodrich workers in front of the plant marching a picket line seeking better working conditions and better pay during a strike held there. For all of them the companies were shut down, work stopped by the workers to make their lives better with safer working conditions and higher wages.
Essential workers in this shut down are still at work. But not the non-essential. Didn't they all think their jobs were needed?
We don't have much contact with federal employees, but we do have farmers who cannot receive all the services they are needing, we all have known people like our neighbors who have lined up for help from FEMA. We do have a superfund site that will require funding. According to Gary Morton, president of the AFGE Council 238, representing 9,000 EPA workers, state programs aren't getting their funding and enforcement actions have stopped. He calls it a nightmare since the states and community groups can't do this work on their own, reminding us that they all took an oath to serve and protect the people.
There are people in our community ready to talk to an EPA investigator about additional information on where and how toxins at B.F. Goodrich were released. To get the cleanup we deserve we need to know all the secrets not yet told. To answer questions on why the benzene plume is where it is. These "old timers" are ready to speak up and that investigator is not an essential worker.
It seems like an essential job to me. Essential to you, too. Multiply this by the number of sites around the country and it is clear we need to get America back to work serving our people.
Another example of essential? It was essential to my general well-being to have time to sit and talk with Joby Taylor and his parents during his visit this week.
It was essential to my belief in the future to get to attend the rehearsal for the reading of Mary Sue Price's play Chat Rats: Oronogo. Having time with people who are depicting our stories with Jill Micka, who I am sure has had her health impacted by this place.
It was essential to the cleanup of our superfund site to see the Quapaw Nation's trucks still at work last week while Robin Meadows was visiting looking at the Tar Creekkeeper's watershed for the Waterkeeper Alliance.
Several years ago I got to go to the National Institutes of Health in what is called the Research Triangle. I walked by rooms full of rat brains and Petri dishes stacked on trays. These government workers have spent years looking for cures to protect our health and these are not essential workers and their research is at risk, and perhaps the cure for cancer.
We rely on the people who work in the federal agencies that do the people's work and they rely on the paychecks they receive, smaller in general than the ones they would receive in the private sector, but they have chosen to work for us instead. How long can we keep the best on hold?
The EPA investigator was coming to find out more about where the pollution came from at B.F. Goodrich. but we haven't heard a peep. This is a shut down for non essential workers. Personally I feel like the health and well-being of the folks living here matters.
I think breathing clean air is essential and protecting the water that flows and lies beneath us as well. This might be a shut down, but it does not mean we have to shut up.
Respectfully Submitted ~ Rebecca Jim
The director and cast for the Reading of Chat Rats: Oronogo with Rebecca Jim and Jill Micka wedged in among them