October 29, 1985

Charnel House Blues
By D.E.

So far, so routine--nasty whites (principally Poles, Slavs, and Germans) menace noble blacks. But thereís a wild card. Frank is aggressively recruited by the burgeoning union, which argues that its workers arenít making a living wage. "Mistah, I come up here to make a livin', not to join no white manís war,Ē says Frank, but in no time heís a convert, then a proselytizer. The whites, especially Bill Bremer, become brave allies; and allís right with the world when a judge decides to give the union an eight-hour day and a hefty wage increase. (Heís especially moved by a sweet Polish woman who has no money to buy herself a new hat.)

Now watch it all unravel. The unions want the "coloreds," but the "coloreds" arenít so quick to fork over their five dollars. This, of course, gets them harassed, and the more theyíre harassed, the less likely they are to want to dance with the Poles and address them as "brother." And Frank finds himself in the middle: heís convinced that the unionís a wedge against the economic conditions that foster racism; yet itís clearly a racist collective, and his fellow butchers abandon it in droves. His first defender, Heavy, takes to throwing bricks at him when he speaks at rallies--Heavy might even be a management stoolie. And when the war ends dand the boys come back, management chucks the union contract, lays off the workers, and subtly encourages the two races to fight it out themselves on the streets of Chicago. read more>>
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