The Mack strike hits “home”

logoThe Gadfly invites “local color” photos of this sortlogo

Jon Harris and Anthony Salamone, “Striking Mack Trucks workers irked after company cuts their health care plans.” [MACK WORKERS DISTRESSED] Morning Call, October 18, 2019.

Paul Muschick, “We should support striking Mack Trucks workers.” Morning Call, October 18, 2019.

Matt 1

“MACK WORKERS DISTRESSED” blares the headline in the print edition of today’s Morning Call.

For some reason the online edition softens “distressed” to “irked.”

Remember the statistics that came out during the government shut down earlier this year about how the vast majority of average American workers do not have, say, $400 put away to meet an emergency?

Distressed is more like it.

The Mack strike hits home.

Gadfly #4 son Matt is a proud Union member standing tall on the picket line.

(Can you pick him out in the above photo? Family resemblance? We once won a Morning Call Father’s Day look-alike photo contest.)

Because of the Touchstone Theatre Festival, Gadfly’s thinking the past few weeks has been framed by “The Steel.”

Now the Mack strike.

Gadfly knows factories.

He grew up just barely across the tracks from a neighborhood called “Tin Town,” whose factories owned the families of his friends as well as the future for many of them, families whose fathers Gadfly remembers coughing out their assembly line dust over cheesesteaks at Novino’s luncheonette.

Supporting self and young family through graduate school, Gadfly in overalls carried his lunch bucket to Kaiser Jeep outside of South Bend, Ind., helping to make Army trucks for Viet Nam, enduring good-humored jibes of “college boy” from soot-stained men who literally counted days to retirement-escape.

His father and uncles worked for Westinghouse just outside Philadelphia in the 1940s and 1950s, and many were crippled by the massive strike in 1955. His father, following his American Dream, had just been promoted from the “floor” to low-level third-shift foreman, where he was proud to wear a white shirt. But the promotion potentially drove a wedge between him and his friends at an ugly time when Union-Company confrontations turned violent as strike days turned into strike months.

Doing necessary maintenance on the machines, Gadfly’s father for several weeks lived in a Westinghouse plant ringed by squads of angry Union members. Gadfly remembers that he was worried about his car as more and more violence erupted. It was 1955. He had just bought a well used 1950 Ford with his pay raise and invested in a paint job.

A “new” car — livin’ the dream.

Unfortunately, the sample paint splotch turned out to be misleading — and the end result was a gleaming, virtually pink embarrassment — especially to a shy teen looking forward to using the car on dates.

But that car was his baby, and his Union still-friends escorted his not yet 16-yr-old Gadfly son through the dense picket line, and, though unpracticed in stick shift, with their convoy, to drive his gleaming pink beauty slowly and sputteringly back through the picket line and out of the plant to safety. It was bizarre.

Gadfly’s kidneys still ripple at the memory.

Gadfly’s father never forgot his Union roots.

Gadfly has felt that influence in his own life.

Gadfly will always remember an African American mourner grasping his hand at the funeral, saying his father was the best foreman he ever had.

That meant something.

Many Bethlehem residents and Gadfly followers worked (or work) for Mack as well as “The Steel.” Would there be strike memories to share?

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