In the mill section two workers had bad accidents, with irreversible damage to their arms, and mill hands said several accidents had happened earlier without any corrective action. When workers complained to the foreman, they received a snide reply, and when the shop representative of the union remonstrated, he was told to shut up or go home. In short order, other workers joined the aggrieved mill hands. When they did not hear a reassuring word from the personnel manager, and the plant superintendent would not meet them, the die was cast. A strike was on.
As a junior intern, just out of college, I had no role to play and was told to stay away. But I lived near the plant and the temptation was strong to come around and see what was happening. Day after day I saw office cars, with police guard, ferrying engineers to factory gates, and running the gauntlet of workers with placards, gesturing, menacing, shouting insults. Some of the staff and security guards, in turn, made obscene gestures at the workers. A company spokesman came out, ringed by guards, and read out a blustering statement to a group of waiting reporters. Union activists too gave the press a list of their demands and spoke of their many grievances. The reporters wanted to speak to the union president, but he was in another town where his wife was to undergo major surgery.
I stood amazed at the electric change in the atmosphere. People seemed to stand petrified in their place, as if expecting something uncommon to happen. It did. In twenty minutes, the old man emerged again, walking with the plant superintendent, straight past the gate and then facing the crowd outside.
Everybody went home like chastised schoolboys, in peace and quiet. The strike was over.