On Monday, November 12, we here in Troy, NY were lucky enough to have Michael Yates visit us on his book tour, his 52nd stop, to be exact.
In addition to the talk at Troy’s “Sanctuary for Independent Media,” co-sponsored by the Troy Area Labor Council of the AFL-CIO, Yates gave several interviews on WRPI, the 10,000 watt college station of the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, whose campus is in Troy.
Since he took early retirement from his college teaching job, Michael Yates and his wife Karen Korenoski have been traveling the US in their van, taking a look at the current state of affairs across the country economically, environmentally, and politically.
After reading a section from his book Cheap Motels and a Hot Plate, which described the descent of his hometown in Pennsylvania from a prosperous union city to a desolate deindustrialized ghost town, Yates went on to talk about his travels, which ranged from Miami in the South to Portland in the Northwest.
The overarching theme of the presentation was his observation of the growth of inequality, as reflected in the built environment, and in the natural world as well.
He saw mega mansions for the rich, trailer parks and sometimes just wooded lots for the poor. Mike and Karen stayed in cheap motels which also often served as make-do homes for poor families working the poorly paid jobs in the hotels and parks catering to the affluent.
Mike and Karen spent some time working in a Yellowstone hotel, getting a load of the type of clerical work described as “good work” by former Labor Secretary Robert Reich in a TV discussion with Yates.
After reading his book and hearing the talk, I know I resolved to be nicer to the grocery checkout clerk my next time in the store. The greater question is what to do about this accelerating growth of inequality. I am studying the new MR book More Unequal edited by Yates to think about it.
A lively question and answer session followed the talk at the Sanctuary, and a goodly number of books by Yates were sold.
The evening finished in fine style with a big tableful of local activists visiting with Mike and Karen over glasses of the excellent beer at Troy’s legendary Ale House.
Jon Flanders is a member and former president of IAM LL 1145 and a member of the Troy Area Labor Council, AFL-CIO.