Long flights, long days. Can’t sleep: still on West Coast time.
After a five hour nap, I catch the last three innings of the 15-inning of the All Star Game. Not much to write home about, but it’s something.
I walk the six blocks to Independence Hall, which is completely deserted. I get there right at 3 AM, and while I’m standing outside the cattle gates (decorated with bunting), staring up at the venerable old place, the night guard approaches. We don’t have anything to do, so we talk.
He’s originally from Brooklyn, but grew up in upstate New York. Lives in New Jersey now, but took the job, because it pays better than Jersey law enforcement jobs. The economy in Jersey’s “not too good, but it’s pretty bad everywhere.”
He’s working for a “vendor” Wackenhut, who has the contract to guard our national treasure. The National Park Service fellows are inside, but the subcontractors are outside, getting chewed up by mosquitos. He can’t afford the gas to drive anymore, and they’re “upping the bridges” which seems to translate as “increasing tolls.”
They’re trying to form a union, but Wackenhut doesn’t like it. The guy who is organizing “is just trying to help out the other guys.” They don’t get any benefits, health, retirement, etc. They had a big meeting at Christ Church. Ed Rendell and other bigwigs were there, but nothing’s come of it.
They don’t give much allowance for winter gear, and the raincoats they issue are so thin and cheap that they tear at the slightest provocation.
The guy who was trying to organize the union was just suspended, the guard tells me. He hopes that they’ll get a union, but he can’t see where it’s going anywhere.
Then his shift replacement shows up, and he rotates to another station. “Take care,” he tells me.
“You too,” I say.
And this is how our liberty is honored at the home of the Declaration and the Constitution.
Rent-a-cops with no benefits, private subcontractors guarding “liberty” — as cheap as possible, while the NPS people doze inside the Great Building.
Land of the Free, Home of the Brave.
But no unions, dammit: Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose.