New York, NY – On this week’s Sunday night episode of LaborPress’ Blue Collar Buzz, we continued our look back at the September 11, 2001 terror attacks; the horror working people are still facing as a result; and the kind of nation we’ve become in the intervening years.
Thanks to the many unionized tradespeople and first responders who rushed to Ground Zero 16 years ago today, New York City has largely been able to rebuild — at least physically.
At last year’s topping out ceremony for 3 World Trade Center, WTC developer Larry Silverstein credited organized labor for making it all happen.
“We could not have built this without the men and women of the unionized construction trades,” Silverstein said just before the last bucket of concrete at 3 World Trade Center was hoisted more than 1,000 feet into the air. “Ironworkers, masons, carpenters, laborers, welders — you work every day rain or shine to reclaim our skyline and to rebuild what the terrorists unsuccessfully tried to destroy forever.”
That defiance has come at a terrible human cost, however. As 9/11 attorney Matthew Baione told Blue Collar Buzz this week, “Last year, around this time, we found out that the cancer rate among the [WTC] Health Program patients had risen to 5,400 people. Now, at the 16th anniversary, we’re up to 7,000 people with cancer in the Health Program. Which is a limited number because out of the 500,000 people that were exposed, only 80,000 are in the program.”
Those numbers include everyone from firefighters to school kids who were all exposed to a witches’ brew of toxic chemicals that — despite official assurances to the contrary — permeated the air around Ground Zero.
The thousands of deaths initially claimed on that day 16 years ago, have since been used to justify the United States’ so-called “War On Terror” abroad, while simultaneously influencing domestic policy here at home in stunningly profound ways.
Sixteen years after a group of mostly Saudi Arabian hijackers crashed planes into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and a field near Shanksville, Pennsylvania, the United States has become a place where current White House officials openly dismiss the words emblazoned on the Statue of Liberty, and immigrant workers and their children are radically ejected from the “homeland.”
Continuing a tradition of wholesale deportation seen under the Democratic administration of Barack Obama, the current chief executive has doubled down, mercilessly deporting immigrant workers after they have successfully woven themselves into the fabric of American Society.
Immigrant workers including Teamster Eber Garcia-Vasquez — a husband, father and trade unionist for more than a quarter of a century.
“He’s not a ‘bad hombre’ at all,” Teamsters Joint Council 16 President George Miranda told Blue Collar Buzz. “He’s routinely followed the rules that were set down for him. As long as he kept his nose clean and didn’t get any felonies or anything like that, he could remain in this country and work. And that’s what he was doing.”
At the time of this writing, Garcia-Vasquez is in Guatemala fervently trying to return to his family on Long Island.
Other workers on Long Island have spent the better part of this summer fighting the bosses Waldner’s Business Environments for the right to work at jobs that once provided them with their own modest piece of the American Dream.
The members of IBT Local 814 workers fought back against that injustice using effective strategies that highlighted the plight of the working class, and largely prevailed. Union leader Jason Ide told Blue Collar Buzz that organized labor must “think outside the box.”
“Unions in the 21st century have to do things a little differently,” he said.
Two decades into the new century, and it is painfully clear that the entire nation must start doing things differently than it is now.
LaborPress’ “Blue Collar Buzz” airs every Sunday night on AM970 The Answer from 9 to 10 p.m. This week’s episode, as well as every other episode of LaborPress’ “Blue Collar Buzz” is also available on demand at www.am970theanswer.com.