Monday, December 30, 2019

Read Mike Swaim's Reflections on the Mushroom Plant from 2001

Sad, sad news tonight that former Mayor Mike Swaim died earlier this month.

In print on December 31st
With the redevelopment of the mushroom plant in process, it's very much worth reading his 2001 piece on it and associated labor practices. This is a history of the site we should remember. Recalling his engaged advocacy is fitting as a kind of memorial also.

From "If It Smells Like Hell, It’s Probably Pictsweet - The Mayor of Salem Speaks Out About Human Rights on the Home Front":
For over twenty years I have driven by that foul smelling mushroom plant on the east side of Salem, thinking, “How can people stand to live near this putrid smelling place?” Never once did I ever stop to ask, “How can people stand to work behind those closed doors, which shut out the light, but not the smell?”

However, the most offensive smell emanating from that plant is not from the manure in which the mushrooms are grown, but rather from the abusive attitude and conditions under which the Pictsweet company forces their employees to work.

As Mayor of Salem, I was recently invited by some of the plant workers to speak with them about these conditions.

In doing so, I never imagined that I’d end up with the President of the Oregon State Senate publicly attacking me in the local press. Nor did I imagine I’d find myself nearly pinned to a padlocked chain link gate by a 16 wheeler semi, along with Cesar Chavez’s son-in-law, Arturo Rodriguez, 1,000 miles from City Hall.
It goes on at some length and is very much worth reading.

He also was instrumental in the attempt at planning "Salem Futures" from 1999, which was abandoned by Mayor Taylor in the mid-2000s. (Some more on that here.)

This never really got off the ground
(via University of Utah)
It has seemed like he had a legacy that was insufficiently appreciated during his life after he left office, and now there may be renewed interest in not just a reassessment but a revival of some of his core interests.

I'm sure there will be other, more detailed tributes in the days to come.

A big loss for the city, for friends, and of course, for family.


Salem Breakfast on Bikes said...

(Added SJ clip)

Anonymous said...

City Watch published a very nice tribute from former city councilor Bill Smaldone -