Sometimes I Walk the Aisles

Sometimes I walk the aisles of the grocery store
And I think about a day some 20 years before
Where this chicken came from, south of the Mason Dixon Line
The Imperial Foods factory in Hamlet, Caroline
The third day of September, 1991
Where for so many good people was the day their race was run

Sometimes I walk the aisles and I can hear the screams
Of those blasted by hot oil when old hose ruptured at the seams
Of those blasted by hot oil when the fireball arose
While more oil fueled the fire being blasted from the hose
More oil fueled the fire, the room filled up with black smoke
When those who weren’t already dead then began to choke

Sometimes I walk the aisles, I think about the padlocks
On the fire doors, barred and blocked
The owner didn’t want his workers stealing chickens out the back
It’s a “right to work” state – they complain, they get the sack
So Tyson saved some money and workers lost their lives
Once the fire was put out the number dead was 25

Sometimes I walk the aisles and somehow feel ashamed
11 years of operation, inspectors never came
Inspectors never came, never came to look
To see if they did anything according to the book
Sometimes I walk the aisles and I wonder to myself
How many people died to put these nuggets on the shelf

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“Sometimes I Walk the Aisles” appears on the Bandcamp album, When I’m Elected President (2014).

Thinking back about the industrial disaster at the Tyson chicken nuggets factory in Hamlet, North Carolina in September of 1991, I wrote this song.  It was a terrible event, which was so deadly because of badly-maintained equipment, and even more because the manager of the factory routinely locked the emergency exit doors in order to prevent employee theft of chickens from the plant.  Which was completely illegal, but the manager didn’t care because the authorities never visited to fine them or anything like that.  Government is bad — can’t tax people in order to provide that kind of oversight.  And who cares about poor black women workers anyway?  It’s a “right to work” state, too.  Because unions are bad — why would workers need a union to stick up for safe working conditions or anything like that?

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