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Monday, 3 September 2012

Feeding the Nation


.

photo

 Overturned truck on approach road to Phillips Packing Company during strike at plant. Cambridge, Maryland: photo by Arthur Rothstein, June 1937
 

The factory so simple
from outside
once in
complexities

like the break room
a forest
danger, resentment, claim
trees firmly planted

You find out later
it was a mistake
then, too late
something already created
when you turned to go

But give me this at least
it is something to ignore

at least eat
feed the others too
between wars



-- Susan Kay Anderson 



photo

Strikers in front of Phillips Packing Company. Cambridge, Maryland: photo by Arthur Rothstein, June 1937

Image, Source: intermediary roll film

Packing company strike. Cambridge, Maryland: photo by Arthur Rothstein, June 1937

Image, Source: intermediary roll film

Camp for migratory agricultural workers of the Phillips Packing Company in Vienna, Maryland. On the left are the living quarters and on the right the cook houses: photo by Jack Delano, July 1940

Image, Source: intermediary roll film

Camp for migratory workers of the Phillips Packing Company at Vienna, Maryland. On the left are the living quarters, in the center the cook-houses and in the background on the right the factory: photo by Jack Delano, July 1940

Image, Source: intermediary roll film

Housing for migratory labor at Phillips Packing Company at Vienna, Dorchester County, Maryland: photo by Jack Delano, July 1940

Image, Source: intermediary roll film

Shacks for migratory workers at Phillips Packing Company, Vienna, Dorchester County, Maryland: photo by Jack Delano, July 1940

Image, Source: intermediary roll film

Group of migratory workers in the camp of the Phillips Packing Company, Vienna, Dorchester County, Maryland: photo by Jack Delano, July 1940

Image, Source: intermediary roll film

Trucks come before dawn to wait their turn to unload at Phillips Packing Company plant. Cambridge, Maryland: photo by John Collier, August 1941

Image, Source: intermediary roll film
 
This trucker has been waiting all day to deliver his tomatoes to the Phillips Packing Company. Cambridge, Maryland: photo by John Collier, August 1941

Image, Source: intermediary roll film

This Negro trucker has been waiting since dawn to deliver his tomatoes to the Phillips Packing Company in Cambridge, Maryland: photo by John Collier, August 1941

Image, Source: intermediary roll film

Trucks unload tomatoes directly into the packing rooms. Phillips Packing Company, Cambridge, Maryland: photo by John Collier, August 1941

Image, Source: intermediary roll film

Trucks unload tomatoes directly into the canning room. Phillips Packing Company, Cambridge, Maryland: photo by John Collier, August 1941

Image, Source: intermediary roll film

Employees reporting for work at the Phillips Packing Company in Cambridge, Maryland: photo by John Collier, August 1941

Image, Source: intermediary roll film
 
Cans are sterilized with steam before filling and cooling. Phillips Packing Company, Cambridge, Maryland: photo by John Collier, August 1941

Image, Source: intermediary roll film
 
Cans, after sterilizing in steam, travel in conveyor belt to canning room. Phillips Packing Company, Cambridge, Maryland: photo by John Collier, August 1941

Image, Source: intermediary roll film

Tomato juice is boiled in open vats and then piped to the canning room. Phillips Packing Company, Cambridge, Maryland: photo by John Collier, August 1941

Image, Source: intermediary roll film
  
Filling cans with tomato juice. Phillips Packing Company, Cambridge, Maryland: photo by John Collier, August 1941

Image, Source: intermediary roll film

After cooking sealed cans are cooled in pool of chilled water before labeling. Phillips Packing Company, Cambridge, Maryland: photo by John Collier, August 1941

Image, Source: intermediary roll film

After being filled with tomato juice and sealed, cans are carried in metal baskets to chilled water pool for cooling. Phillips Packing Company, Cambridge, Maryland: photo by John Collier, August 1941

Image, Source: intermediary roll film

Phillips Packing Company storeroom. Cambridge, Maryland: photo by John Collier, August 1941

photo

Leif Dahl (1908-1972), organizer of agricultural workers union, speaking at union meeting in Bridgeton, New Jersey. Dahl, a CIO organizer for the Fruit and Vegetable Workers Union that later became the United Cannery, Agricultural, Packing, and Allied Workers of America (UCAPAWA), played a central role in the ten year effort to to organize the Phillips Packing Company.  Dahl eventually became regional director of the union, which stood for interracial solidarity and was one of the few unions with a significant number of women in leadership. The union was ultimately destroyed in the post World War II reaction against the “Red Menace”: photo by Edwin Rosskam, 1936

Photos from Farm Security Administration/Office of War Information Collection, Library of Congress

10 comments:

TC said...

Cambridge, Maryland: Whites Join Protest Which Frees Worker (from The Afro-American, 3 July 1937)

vazambam (Vassilis Zambaras) said...

Feeding the Nation on Promises


It has been decreed
They shall eat whatever
Their hearts desire;

In the meantime,
Let them eat
Their hearts out.

TC said...

The king of the food processing industries which grew up in the late 19C in the Cambridge area was Phillips Packing. It became the biggest employer in the region, securing whopping DOD contracts in both world wars -- see e.g. Phillips Packing Company WWII K Rations-- and eventually employing up to 10,000 people. Aggravated conditions and circumstances for workers led to ten years of labour agitation. In the 1937 strike a striker was run over and killed by a truck. From the time of that strike action up to 1946 there were strong efforts to unionize the plant workers, ultimately unsuccessful; the postwar Red Scare was the death knell for the CIO organization effort at Phillips. The company went out of business in the Sixties.

The 1937 Phillips strike is notable for this period in labour movement history because blacks and whites, women and men struggled shoulder-to-shoulder to bring about change.

Somewhat ironically, given what we can see here of the living conditions for Phillips' seasonal work force, marketing of products -- including the trademark brand, Phillips Delicious Tomatoes -- stressed the "Made in Dixie" angle. For instance:

"This plantation-style soup is the best ever!"

-K- said...

Am I the only surprised to read that the workers had to fight for nine years for the right to have a union?

The photos of their living conditions are just heartbreaking but at my age the shameless behavior of "job creators" should come as no surprise.

TC said...

Kevin,

Thanks for caring.

I've now added a bottom photo of Leif Dahl, the union organizer who spent a decade attempting to lead the oppressed subjects of the Phillips Packing empire out of the wilderness. Futile in the end, it was.

Not that having a union is any guarantee of the Promised Land. I suppose there are unions and unions, locals and locals, etc. But my own experience in this area was not good. Over the years I paid an awful lot of useless dues to the SEIU, thinking that might help my effort to get a fair shake out of employers who were no better than a pack of grifters. When push came to shove, the union dropped me like a bad habit and the grifters vanished into the night. Next the State Labor Board fouled up the putative settlements, sending the checks to the wrong people. The wrong people of course never sent back the checks. There went my two-bit retirement.

(In this picture of course there were no Reds anywhere, merely many of the whiter shades of pink... as in embarrassed.)

Susan Kay Anderson said...

Union oh union
please unionize me
immunize me

be my voice
calling out
from the pockets
of the boss

to the nearest continent
where the land is firm
where all are united

the president is my age
what say Prez
will you venture
my capital again

will you un-witch
the teachers
make good on your spell

Susan Kay Anderson said...

I'm so glad to see the cans
sterilized by steam
they are

my parents
standing
ready

when will I be hungry
enough to eat metal

I already have
as little flakes
aftertaste so tingling

Wooden Boy said...

Unions were rooted in the life on the shop floor. This is not the case any more; there's a class of full time pro-reps now; their decisions are often in line with a wider strategy and lousy with propriety.

What men and women like Leif Dahl risked is almost incalculable for us.

TC said...

My experience is in line with WB's appraisal. The union that took my dues would not take my phone calls. And when I wrote to them, I got back a letter ... directed to someone else.

The reps were these little dwarf potentates, invisible, unreachable, perpetually out to lunch.

Anyway... Susan Anderson for President, I say. It's no time or fooling around, here, people. This is one candidate who could stand the heat in the Soup Kitchen.

Susan Kay Anderson said...

Then, I would have to marry Bill.