Author Archives

I'm a runner, reader, writer, and editor.

Ahead by a Century: A Gord Downie Reading List

I remember the day in 1987 when my then-boyfriend popped their first EP, “The Tragically Hip” into the cassette player of his dad’s Chrysler Cordoba. When “Last American Exit” came on, I loved it instantly. It’s been on my playlists for 30 years. I’ve seen the Hip at community colleges, hockey rinks, bars, summer festivals, and arenas. I’m part of a swath of Canadians for which the Hip’s music meant good times and Canadian pride; our stories, truths, and landscape writ large in songs with incisive lyrics and driving beats.

Among my favorite Hip songs, “50 Mission Cap” honors Bill Barilko, whose last goal won the 1951 Stanley Cup for the Toronto Maple Leafs. That spring, Barilko went missing on a fishing trip and the Leafs failed to win a cup until 1962, the year Barilko’s remains were discovered. Then of course, there’s “Ahead By A Century,” in which Gord asks us to embrace the moment, reminding us that “there’s no dress rehearsal, this is our life.” Part poet, part visionary, part activist, Gord Downie was a dervish on stage, growling those lyrics into the minds of audiences for three decades.

On October 17th, Downie passed away after battling glioblastoma for two years. In his moving tribute, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said, “We are less as a country without Gord Downie in it.”

Perhaps the most remarkable thing about Downie is that he chose to spend the last two years of his life accelerating his contribution to social justice, working toward a better life for others, toward a better Canada. He used his profile and his songwriting to foster reconciliation between Canada and First Nations people by raising awareness of the atrocities and generational effects of residential schools. For his work, the Assembly of First Nations honored Downie with an eagle feather and a Lakota spirit name — Wicapi Omani — which means, “Man who walks among the stars.”

Here are five pieces about a man who used story and song to share his Canada and, through personal example, inspired and challenged us to be better as a nation.

1. “For Gord: 27 Short Essays About The Tragically Hip, Plus One Poem” (TheBelleJar, BuzzFeed, June 2016)

In this round-up, 28 fans share their earliest memories of The Tragically Hip and how Gord Downie and his lyrics became the soundtrack to important moments in their lives.

2. “Yer Favourites” (Eric Koreen, Hazlitt, August 2016)

After initial die-hard fandom, Eric Koreen gets turned off the Hip for a decade after getting fed up with a small, boorish, white male contingent of the group’s fan base, interested only in hearing the hits in concert — certainly not opening bands with thoughtful, though lesser-known songs. Koreen eventually reconciles the Hip’s dichotomous hold on Canada, in that they “combine the intellectual side of Canadians — that we’re thoughtful, smart people — with that humble, meat-and-potatoes side, too.” Koreen suggests his change of heart came as a direct result of Gord Downie, who he characterizes as someone who could “be frustrated by your country but not disown it; that you can be an intellectual and an everyman at the same time.”

3. “How I Learned to Love the Tragically Hip and Still Be Punk” (Damian Abraham, Vice, August 2016)

Damian Abraham, vocalist for Canadian hardcore punk band Fucked Up, recounts how he turned from lifelong Hip hater to friend of Gord Downie.

I met Gord properly for the first time in the summer of 2010 backstage at a Tegan and Sara/City and Colour concert. Gord was to join Dallas Green onstage to perform the song they did together on the latter’s Bring Me Your Love record, and I had brought my family with me to watch the show. My son was toddling his way around the backstage with us in tow when tumbled out in front of Gord. After helping him up and making sure he was OK, he picked up Holden’s flung and filthy soother and rushed over the sink to wash it. As he handed back the washed pacifier, I told him that he didn’t need to worry about doing that.

“Of course I did,” he responded.

Youthful exuberance can lead to rashness. In my rush to embrace punk and reject all that didn’t fit with my new world view, I ended up throwing out a lot of culture that I was thankfully able to rediscover later. Of all these bands, there are none I am more grateful to have awoken to the greatness of than the Tragically Hip.

4. “On the Tragically Hip, Blue Rodeo and a Shared Legacy” (Michael Barclay, Macleans, August 2016)

Jim Cuddy, of the legendary Canadian band Blue Rodeo, shares stories of times his band and the Hip crossed paths in their early years touring Canada.

We were supposed to be on right before the Hip, but the Eagles inserted some guy whose father owns the Knicks. It was a blues band, and he was terrible. But he had to go on then because it was his plane that the Eagles were flying on.

Then the Hip came on and they were on fire. Gord was in a big white outfit, totally drenched. At the side of the stage is Irving Azoff [longtime Eagles manager and former CEO of Ticketmaster and Live Nation] standing there with the Eagles, and he’s looking at Gord telling him to shorten the set, making gestures. It’s making me furious, because I know the Eagles only want to shorten the set so they can get on a plane and fly out, which they can’t do after midnight or something. So Gord’s doing his thing and continues on. Then the Eagles come on and do a miserable set, just sucking the joy out of the whole island. Afterwards I was sitting with Gord backstage and asked, “Didn’t that bug you?” He said, “Pfft, I never thought in my wildest dreams that I’d be playing and have Irving Azoff telling me to shorten my set.”

5. “Gord Downie opens up about battling cancer, says it’s ‘creating something'” (Peter Mansbridge, CBC News, October 2016)

In his first interview after his cancer diagnosis, Gord Downie talks with Peter Mansbridge about living with cancer.

When you see people now, you want to hug and a kiss. Why is that important to you now?

I do. Yeah. That was happening before, though, all this, strangely. My life was changing and I felt that everyone that hung in there with me, all these years, were still there — they didn’t write me off or anything like that. And they could have. So yes, hug and kiss. And my dad, Edgar, definitely kissed on the lips. And me and my brothers taught a lot of men how to do it.

TFW You’re Training the Worker That Will Take Your Job Away

At The New York Times, Farah Stockman profiles manufacturing employee Shannon Mulcahy during her last year at Rexnord, a bearing plant in Indianapolis, Indiana that moved to Mexico for cheaper labor. As Mulcahy trains the Mexican men who will eventually take her job, Stockman posits that American workers are not only losing their livelihoods but also their identities — the pride and self-esteem accrued from the specialized manufacturing knowledge accumulated over decades at work.

Men had come and gone. Houses had been bought and lost. But the job had always been there. For 17 years. Until now.

Shannon and her co-workers had gotten the news back in October: The factory was closing. Ball bearings would move to a new plant in Monterrey, Mexico. Roller bearings would go to McAllen, Tex. About 300 workers would lose their jobs.

The bosses called it “a business decision.”

To Shannon, it felt like a backhand across the face.

For months, Shannon kept working as the factory shut down around her. She struggled with straightforward questions: Should she train workers from Mexico for extra pay or refuse? Should she go back to school or find a new job, no matter what it paid?

And she was forced to confront a more sweeping question that nags at many of the 67 percent of adults in this country who do not have a four-year college degree: What does my future look like in the new American economy?

She had always been proud of her job. When she ran into friends from high school, she told them she worked at Link-Belt, conscious of the envy it incited. Shannon was a legacy hire. Her uncle had worked at the factory since before she was born. Her sense of self-worth was tied to the brand. The bearings she built were top of the line.

She held onto that. “I still care,” she said last March. “I don’t know why. It becomes an identity. A part of you.”

For workers like Shannon, the factory’s final months were a time of reinvention and retribution. Of praying that Donald Trump would save them and arguing about why he didn’t. Of squabbling over whether to train their Mexican replacements or shun them. Of vowing that one day, the corporate bosses would realize that making bearings isn’t as easy as they thought.

Shannon could have given Tad the bare minimum of training, answering a few questions and collecting her pay. But just as Stan Settles had passed on his knowledge to Shannon, Shannon trained Tad as if he were one of her own.

Read the story

Trans, Homeless, and Turning Tricks to Survive

At Rolling Stone, Laura Rena Murray chronicles the dangers young trans women face as they struggle to survive on the streets of New York City. Often the targets of violence, one in two trans women in the city will become HIV-positive before she turns 24. Turning tricks to bring in cash, some have gone so far as to attempt suicide simply to gain access to a bed for the duration of the mandatory 72-hour watch period. “I just needed a bed,” says Scarlet. “I did what I had to do to sleep for Christmas.”

In the Dominican Republic, where Sophie was born, her mother struggled with addiction and sent Sophie to live with her grandmother in New York when she was six months old. Her grandmother, who was able to send the family money, food and clothing, Sophie says, by pimping out undocumented girls, was nearly beaten to death by two men when Sophie was in the fourth grade. Both her grandmother and her father hit her, she says, and sometimes locked her out of the house. “It was more hatred than discipline,” she recalls. “My dad would beat me in the shower with a belt and punch me in the face, calling me a faggot. Then he’d turn around and say, ‘I love you.’ How can you treat me like this if you love me?”

She began living on the streets at 16, attending school whenever possible, but more often worrying about where to eat, shower and sleep each night. “You can’t go to school smelly and drawing attention,” she says. “I would take cat baths at Starbucks.” Now, at 21, she’s hoping to build a civil-rights career, either as a lawyer or a social worker. The next morning, in fact, she has an interview for an eight-week internship at the American Civil Liberties Union. “I know I’m going to be a very successful person,” she says. “I want [my father] to learn he lost something.”

There are now more than 350,000 transgender people under the age of 25 in the United States, the majority in the largest cities of New York, California, Florida and Texas – and an estimated 20 percent of them lack secure housing, though many service providers believe that figure is low. Craig Hughes of the Coalition for Homeless Youth notes that the federal definition of homelessness does not include those who trade sex for shelter; instead, they are considered “unstably” housed. “There are thousands who go uncounted,” Hughes says. “They are disconnected from services, sleep on multiple couches a month and spend some nights trading sex for shelter.”

Read the story

Should Youth Football be Banned?

Esquire writer Luke O’Neil recalls playing tackle football as a kid, a game where “you can hit so hard that you knock yourself out and wake up confused and distraught on the sideline, seeing yellow.” A new study from Boston University suggests that tackle football is too dangerous for the developing brains of youths from age six to 12, and O’Neil wonders how much damage he did to his still-forming brain.

It was the final game of yet another woeful season for our team against a much larger nearby city. I don’t remember the score, but I know we lost, because we always lost. And yet, even in playing football in futility, knowing you are likely to lose, there are victories to be snatched from defeat. A ferocious tackle. A shuddering block. You can hit people so hard that long after they beat you, they remember you were there …

… The new BU study, which surveyed still-living former players, determined those who began playing at a young age (before 12) showed double the risk of developing behavioral problems like apathy, and triple the risk of getting depression compared to players who started later.

Roughly 1.23 million kids ages 6 to 12 played tackle football in 2015, according to the Sports & Fitness Industry Association, a slight increase over the previous year. That age is significant, because a child’s brain has yet to fully develop by then …

… It’s easy to over-diagnose yourself when looking at a list of symptoms, but for as long as I can remember, these things have been a daily part of my life: sensitivity to sound and light, poor memory, ringing in my ears, apathy, and depression. It may not have anything to do with football — people suffer from mental and emotional disorders for all sorts of reasons.

Read the story

‘Hotchickenfrication’: One Fowl Enterprise

Prince’s Hot Chicken, the spicy, savory comfort food which has its origins in a spurned lover’s attempt for revenge, has long been a Nashville institution. Sadly, the family-run operation has spawned imitators, from KFC to Shake Shack to a spate of already or soon-to-be-opened restaurants cashing in on the seemingly insatiable appetite for hot chicken.

As Zach Stafford laments at Eater, “hotchickenfrication” — as it’s come to be known in Nashville — is polluting “hot chicken’s actual history, its particular origins in a distinct community…transforming it into a pale echo of what it was — a spicy but soulless joyride.”

Prince’s favorite food was fried chicken, and his lover knew that, making it the perfect vehicle for her pain. While he was sleeping, she went out to the garden behind the house and grabbed a bunch of cayenne peppers she’d grown, then started frying some chicken. As the chicken cooked, she created an unbearably hot spice mix with the cayenne. When the chicken came out of the skillet, still sizzling, she tossed an enormous amount of seasoning all over the bird, thinking it would be agonizingly inedible. Prince awoke and stumbled into the kitchen, almost tripping over the aroma. He took a seat at the kitchen table in front of the pile of chicken; his lover watched, anticipating the first bite of revenge. Her plan was thwarted immediately: Prince loved the chicken so much he wanted more.

What you might call “hashtag hot chicken” is the kind served at Party Fowl, a restaurant that once provided the official hot chicken of the Tennessee Titans football team. Last summer, over plates of its signature hot chicken with bourbon-glazed beignets — a play on chicken and waffles — and hot chicken lollipops, Bart Pickens, the executive chef, who moved to Nashville from New Orleans in 2006, explained the broad appeal of his menu. “ You can take our menu to Chicago; it’s got enough reflection,” he told me, referring to Party Fowl’s wide variety of hot chicken dishes, from poutine to Cuban sandwiches. “If I’ve got to make a Giordano’s deep-dish hot chicken pizza, I can go there.” (He has gone there; I’ve seen the pictures.)

While longtime hot chicken aficionados may cringe, Pickens sees the trend as a natural evolution of local tradition. “Food is up for interpretation,” he said. “My philosophy has always been, you have to know the original to go forward with it.”

Pickens’s views echo those of many of the Nashville chefs I spoke to over the last year. They believe hot chicken is a larger-than-life dish that is fair game for their own interpretations, so they are capitalizing off the trend with a clear conscience despite the dish’s singular creation, rooted in a specific time and place in the city. But the history these chefs and new hot chicken dishes refer to is a tall tale, one they often don’t even fully understand. “There’s nothing worse than a scorned woman,” Pickens said, looking over the vast tableau of hot chicken iterations on the table between us. “How does that story go?”

Read the story

28 Voices From the Storm

The staff of Texas Monthly interviewed 28 Texans who together, tell the chronological story of Hurricane Harvey. They recount its birth as the blip on the radar that became the Atlantic hurricane season’s eighth tropical cyclone, to how it grew “into the strongest hurricane to hit Texas since Carla, in 1961, churning over the state for five agonizing days, releasing more rain than any storm ever in the continental United States, and [will] likely become the most expensive natural disaster in U.S. history.”

BILL ROGERS, 61, self-employed mechanic, Port Aransas. We started watching it when it started to develop, back when it was in the Caribbean. When you live like this, come hurricane season, your ears perk up and you start watching things. When I first moved here [25 years ago], I listened to the old shrimpers, what to do and what not to do. And I always heard, you leave when the birds leave—they know more than we do. But this caught everybody off guard, ’cause there’s dead birds all around my house.

ZACHARY DEARING: About two hours into being in [J.J.’s friend’s] house, the walls started breathing. If you were to put your hand on the walls in the house, it felt like if you were to put your hand on the chest of a horse.

WANDA WRIGHT: My sister came over on Friday. Probably two o’clock. We were fine. We sat here and played Yahtzee until we lost power, and then it started getting ugly. My mother took her hearing aid out and went to bed. She wasn’t scared. She didn’t hear a thing. The wind was blowing, and those windows are the slide-open kind and we were holding them. They were bowing out, even with plywood on them. The sound was like screaming—woooo! It sounded to me like forty hoarse old ladies in our trees were screaming. I can’t even make that noise. This went on for, like, three hours, then the eye came over, then dead silence for an hour and forty-five. Crickets. You could hear the frogs. I’ve been in an eye before, and the eye lasts thirty minutes. This one was almost two hours. And then it came back again. Then it was a different sound. Like a groaning. I mean, it’s a mystery. It sounded like there were forty salty banshees up in this tree.

LISA EICHER: In the middle of the night before, my husband had taken my Suburban and driven it to higher ground. The firemen dropped us off at a Valero just a couple miles away from there, and my husband had a neighbor come get him and take him to our car. So we waited at the Valero for a while, the kids and I, the pig and the dog. My little boy was only in his underwear. My daughter had no pants on. We had no shoes, and we were dripping wet. It was definitely a bit of a spectacle. The gas station attendant came out and gave us food and drinks. A homeless couple came up and gave us blankets because the kids were freezing cold, and they stayed with us. They didn’t want anything in return. They just wanted us to be okay, and the kids to be warm. We have the blankets in the car still, and I told my husband, “We are never getting rid of those.” It’s a good reminder of the goodness of people.

HOLLY HARTMAN: I texted [a dispatcher] and said, “Do you know if anyone has gotten to the family in Orange whose two boys were electrocuted?” He said, “Yeah, we got to them an hour ago.” That was in the afternoon, and they had called me at 3 a.m. So I think for at least twelve hours, that family was in their house with these two bodies.

BOBBY SHERWOOD: There have been a lot of tears. Everyone is distraught. When people heard about my house, they just started showing up with food and water. I have more stuff than a grocery store right now. My son Matt set up a barbecue grill and started feeding people who had not eaten in days. This is our town, and the people of Port Aransas are resilient. We care about each other, and we care about taking care of each other. Texans are tough. The people of Port A are tougher.

Read the story

Michelle Dean Uncovers Some Truths About Snopes

In the beginning, legendary internet fact-finding site Snopes.com answered interesting yet mundane questions such as how microwaved water affects houseplants and whether Walt Disney was cryogenically frozen after his death. (He wasn’t.) After 9/11 changed America forever, Snopes became a go-to resource for truth on everything from Obama birther conspiracy theories to keeping the facts straight on Donald Trump. For Wired, Michelle Dean profiles Snopes co-founder David Mikkelson and uncovers how a messy divorce, as well as ownership and control squabbles, have threatened the site’s existence.

Then, on September 11, 2001, out of the clear blue sky, everything changed. The planes flew into the Twin Towers and crashed at the Pentagon and in Pennsylvania, and America turned, panicked, to the internet to try to explain those events to itself. “I posted the first of the September 11 articles just after midnight on September 12,” Barbara wrote to me. It was a post debunking the rumor that the 16th century astrologer Nostradamus had predicted the attacks. “I researched and wrote that first article only because I needed to do something other than just cry and feel helpless.” The tenor of their site was about to change.

Where once they had been conducting tests with marshmallows and houseplants, now they were debunking claims that there were 4,000 Israelis who worked in the World Trade Center who stayed home that fateful day. Traffic spiked. Suddenly the press, which had treated Snopes mostly as a curiosity, took real interest. The Mikkelsons found themselves doing newspaper interviews, appearing on television, talking about the lies Americans were telling themselves in the aftermath of the catastrophe….

David is a pretty unflappable guy, but he seemed surprised. “She certainly contributed a great deal to making it a successful business enterprise,” he said, stammering a bit. “We jointly founded Bardav.” But he told me he felt there was a distinction between the claim he alone made to the idea behind Snopes.com and the successful business partnership he was willing to allow that Barbara had participated in. I pointed out that until their divorce, Barbara’s name had often been associated with the site in the press—searches in newspaper archives reveal that until about 2010, she had given many interviews about Snopes, more than David had, and that was true even before Bardav’s founding in 2003 and the inauguration of Snopes as a business. David, evidently frustrated with this question, said, “Well, she was giving all the interviews because I was working a full-time job,” referring to his position at the HMO, “whereas she never worked at all throughout the entirety of our marriage.” But then he seemed to regret this outburst, and backtracked. “I would not in any way try to slight her or say that she was not responsible for a good deal of success of the site,” he said.

The problem is that David’s telling of the Snopes story does seem to slight his wife. However meticulous he might be in fact-­checking the errors of others, there is always this slippage in his account of his own success, an insistence that he did it by himself. It’s not a slippage that has any bearing on his dispute with Proper Media, or the contractual matters at issue there. Mikkelson went through a bad divorce and emerged from it, as it seems to me people often do, with a blind spot. It’s one we all have, to one degree or another, to fail to see the obvious when it comes to ourselves. It just stands out with David because he has spent his career being so scrupulous about facts.

Read the story

The Rainbow Railroad to Canada for Gay Chechen Men

As John Ibbitson reports at The Globe and Mail, there’s a new underground railroad to Canada. Through a safe house network, the Canadian government has been spiriting away gay Chechen men who face not only government persecution, but honor killings at the hands of their family. In this conservative Russian republic, the government not only looks away from these heinous crimes, it encourages them.

For three months, the federal government has been secretly spiriting gay Chechen men from Russia to Canada, under a clandestine program unique in the world.

The evacuations, spearheaded by Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland, fall outside the conventions of international law and could further impair already tense relations between Russia and Canada. But the Liberal government decided to act regardless.

Hamzat, a man in his mid-twenties, is a recent arrival to Canada. (Hamzat is not his real name. The Globe and Mail is protecting his identity because he fears repercussions for friends and family in Chechnya, and because he is concerned that some Chechen-Canadians might wish him ill.) In an interview with The Globe, he was cautious but calm, offering a brief smile from time to time. He described how his ordeals began: One day in March, men wearing green khaki uniforms appeared in his place of work in Grozny, the capital of Chechnya. He was handcuffed, placed in the trunk of a car, and taken to a local police headquarters. “I don’t know how to express this. I was in shock,” he said, speaking through an interpreter.

Hamzat was taken into a room and, still handcuffed, placed on a chair. He was surrounded by men who kicked him with their heavy boots and beat him with the brass nozzles of hoses. In later sessions, he was subjected to electric-shock torture.

The men wanted him to reveal the names of gay men he knew, just as another man under torture had given up his name. “I didn’t give them any information,” he said. “I lied to them.”

Between interrogations, he said, he and other gay men were kept in a cell with drug dealers and users, and confined to a small area because they were considered unclean. The interrogations lasted two or three weeks.

Read the story

Twenty Years Later, The Dude Still Abides

You may remember Jeff Bridges for his portrayal of über-underachiever Jeffrey “The Dude” Lebowski in The Big Lebowski, a 1998 cult classic which has spawned infinite imitators and even a religion called, unsurprisingly, “Dudism.” If you know Bridges only as The Dude, you may be surprised to learn of an expansive career before and after his immortalization (in an over-sized knit sweater, of course) in The Big Lebowski. In this profile at GQ, Caity Weaver reminds us that Bridges has been “nominated for an Academy Award at 67, but also at 22, and five times in between.”

Bridges knows he’ll probably be remembered best for padding around grungy ’90s Los Angeles in a cozy sweater that hugged him like the fur of a hibernating bear, but prior to that his career followed a serpentine path—from boy wonder (The Last Picture Show), to brilliant engineer who accidentally becomes a video game (Tron), to alien heartthrob (Starman), to disgraced radio shock jock palling around with schizophrenic Robin Williams (The Fisher King)—yet somehow he always seemed headed in the right direction. Then, at some point post-Lebowski, Bridges evolved into the Marlon Brando of grizzled American West prospector types. His last three Academy Award nominations—for 2009’s Crazy Heart (he won best actor), 2010’s True Grit, and last year’s Hell or High Water—have all saluted his portrayal of rugged backcountry men. This fall, he’ll star in Only the Brave, a wildfire drama inspired by real events, as the retired chief of an Arizona fire department, and you’d better believe he wears a cowboy hat.

Lucky, then, that after half a century of making movies, Jeff Bridges doesn’t seem exhausted. If anything, he seems extremely well rested. Once he’s completed his errands for the day—talking to me, taking a field trip to a nearby artist community, checking out a socially conscious grab-and-go restaurant that he hazily half-invites me to, though he has no idea when he will be there—Bridges can return to his lawn and dance slowly through the labyrinth he himself sheared into the grass. Getting lost seems relaxing for him. Maybe we should all do it.

Read the story

Why Industrial Laundry Is Dirtier Than You Can Imagine

After a six-month investigation, Annie Hylton uncovers third-world working conditions and rampant sexual harassment at industrial laundry facilities serving Manhattan hospitals, hotels, and restaurants.

At Dissent, she recounts how workers, who went without health and safety training and personal protective equipment, routinely handled linens contaminated by human blood, urine, vomit, and feces. When workers weren’t dealing directly in others’ sh*t, they were forced to endure it. One manager routinely preyed on migrant women workers who had little English and less recourse; women were subject to unwanted touching and lewd suggestions. And after they finally stood up to complain? Retaliation, of course, in the form of reduced hours and more strenuous duties.

There are more than fifty industrial laundries in and around New York that employ thousands of workers, most of whom are recent immigrants, mainly women. These workers typically operate in noisy, dirty, stressful conditions, and are frequently exposed to harmful chemicals. Meg Fosque, an organizer at Make the Road New York who testified before New York City Council in 2015, described the laundry industry as one plagued by rampant violations of labor law and exploitation of the largely immigrant workforce by “unscrupulous employers.” Fosque concluded, “the industry as a whole has a disturbing track record and is in need of oversight.”

Until legislation was passed in 2016, there were no comprehensive and enforceable standards or licenses for industrial laundries in New York.

In November 2011, twenty-four-year-old Milton Anzora, a laundry worker at a commercial facility in Long Island called Prestige Industries, was crushed to death by a conveyer shuttle (this facility has since closed). In 2015, OSHA found that the company continued to expose employees to similar hazards at its Paterson facility. “It is unacceptable when a company continues to neglect basic safety and health procedures, especially after experiencing a fatality. Prestige Industries’ deliberate failure to uphold its responsibility to provide a safe and healthful workplace is an indication that worker safety and health is not a priority, which is intolerable,” said Robert Kulick, OSHA’s regional administrator in New York.

The largely female and immigrant workforce has meant that some workers are also subject to sexual harassment or assault, much like that faced by Gonzalez and her coworkers. Workers whose rights are violated often do not come forward because of their immigration status or because they lack legitimate union representation, allowing the cycle of abuse to continue.

Read the story