The town of Pajaro, California is ruined. Many residents of this poor Latino farming community will never return home. The levee keeping water from the Pajaro River away from the town broke. The Federal government, under both Democratic and Republican administrations, had known for years that the levee was weak and needed to be replaced. But because their cost-benefit analysis showed it was not worth it, they did nothing. What does this mean in actual language? It means that replacing the levee would have been too expensive, especially when measured against the worth of a poor, working-class, Latino community. The Feds were in essence saying the lives of these agricultural workers did not matter.
Next, let’s go to East Palestine, Ohio where a massive derailment of a Norfolk Southern freight train released tons of toxic chemicals into the ground, air and water. While the Biden administration’s Environmental Protection Agency had said only a few weeks ago the level of dioxin was “safe,” they have now “discovered” levels 100 times above what is acceptable. Under both Democratic and Republican administrations, rail safety measures had been steadily eroded. Rail workers had pointed to numerous safety issues several months ago when they almost struck the nation’s railroads, only to be forced into accepting a contract that allowed them zero sick days per year, a safety issue in itself. The people of East Palestine, an area already ravaged by neoliberal plans that saw workers’ jobs outsourced enmasse, will now be paying the price of lax railroad safety for years. The health of their children will suffer. Nature will suffer. The value of their homes, where their wealth had been stored, will drop. These are mainly white working-class people, people who the Secretary of Transportation, Pete Buttegeig, has just given a huge middle finger to. Please keep in mind this was an accident the Chair of the National Transportation Safety Board has said was 100% preventable.
Minneapolis suffers from the same disease of neoliberal capitalism as Pajaro and East Palestine. Residents of the East Phillips neighborhood in Minneapolis have fought for years against the demolition of the Roof Depot building, proposing to turn the site into an urban farm. The demolition has the potential to release a plume of arsenic dust into the neighborhood and makes way for a city refueling station that would bring over 800 trucks and other vehicles into the already highly polluted neighborhood. The impact? More death, disease and suffering for the working-class Latino, East African and Indigenous residents.
Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey and the conservative DFL City Council majority, always quick to wrap themselves in identity politics and progressive-sounding rhetoric, have staunchly opposed the urban farm. You would think that an urban farm strongly supported by the East Phillips community and in line with the Green New Deal is something the “liberal” mayor of Minneapolis and his supporters on the City Council would support. After all, they have passed numerous resolutions in support of diversity and a Green future for the city. Here’s the problem: rich developers want the land where the current refueling station is located, so they can build multi-family housing as part of continued gentrification of the city. Frey and company don’t want to cross their ruling-class buddies. That could lead to the loss of campaign contributions and other perks.
The point to this story? The Democratic and Republican Parties both hate workers. One may look a little less evil than the other, but at heart they are both giving you and me the middle finger every day, literally destroying the lives of working-class people with hardly a thought. They will be in the future, too, unless we stop them.
How? That’s a subject for another day.
By Kip H