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Occupy West Virginia?

01.07.12

On a recent photo trip to West Virginia I ran across a group of “Occupiers”! Right out in the middle of West By God Virginia.

Now I don’t want this to be a political or social commentary, and I’m sure you don’t care to hear my opinions. So to keep that mess to a minimum I’ll just say as a whole I think the occupiers we’ve all seen on the nightly news lack a concise, consistent message. They can’t say what they want as a group, but offer up a ton of varying objectives and goals. That said…

As I’m driving through the hills of West Virginia on a hunt for old Mail Pouch barns I pass an “encampment” with all kinds of tents, campers and signs. One of which caught my eye more than the rest. “Occupy West Virginia” it said. It mildly interested me, but I had barns to find.

About a mile or so down the road my curiosity got the best of me, and I decided to turn around and check it out. So I pull up and start shooting and a woman walks up and asks, “who you with?”. I’m thinking to myself, “well, it’s just me”, but I explained I’m not “with” anyone, knowing I was about to get the story even though I wasn’t with the press. As it turns out she’s the local union president for an aluminum workers union. She explained that they are at arms with the local aluminum plant and they are going to “change” things by occupying that particular location, which happens to be right outside the gate of the plant.

So now I’m thinking “Great, now I get to hear a bunch of union workers complain about working conditions and such”. But I figured I stopped so I might as well listen. I couldn’t have been more wrong though. I was introduced to a group of retired aluminum workers. Men that had worked very hard for as many as 30 years. They were gruff metal working men and their years of hard work were exposed on their faces and in their hearts. One man told me they had recently lost their health insurance that they had been contracted to receive once retired. He explained that the next day he would be receiving his retirement check and three quarters of it was to go toward health insurance. He said that less than 6 months earlier his check covered food, shelter and the typical bills we all have, but now that they had broken the contract he was in dire straits to pay his bills.

As I was pulling up I was thinking the worst of those people yet I ended up listening and learning. Maybe I should be more open to other people’s thoughts and opinions? Maybe we all should?

Here’s a small gallery of the shots from my visit. Enjoy!