The Spark

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.” — Karl Marx

Chicago:
General Iron—Pollution for the Working Class

Aug 24, 2020

General Iron is a scrap metal recycler, operating for 60 years in an industrial corridor on Chicago’s near North Side. It’s a dirty business—spewing particulates and “metal fuzz” into the neighborhood around it. But a new, multi-billion dollar development for the wealthy is opening next door. So now General Iron is moving to a new site in East Side, on the far Southeast corner of the city, near the Indiana border.

The far Southeast of the city has been a dumping ground for years. Chicago’s steel mills, for a long time the main employer in the area, closed up shop forty years ago, taking jobs with them—and leaving behind plenty of polluted land. The working class neighborhood has pulled in more than its share of polluters since. Landfills moved in. More recently, neighborhood activists fought against chemical companies leaving piles of toxic petcoke dust out in the open air. Activists today note that the recycler’s new site is half a mile from George Washington High School ... and prevailing winds will carry the pollution right to the students.

General Iron’s new location is the site of one of the old mills. Some people in the neighborhood hope to get one of the handful of jobs General Iron will provide. This is how the society confronts us—jobs for a few at the expense of a neighborhood’s health. Once the wealthy wanted General Iron’s old neighborhood, they used influence to push this company off of the North Side ... and onto a working class neighborhood.