“Silence never won rights. They are not handed down from above they are forced by pressures from below.”
The first time I heard about the Vita Cortex situation was in an angry phone-call from my father filling me in on events in Ireland. “I am ashamed to live in a country where a 60 year old has to sleep in a cold factory to get what is owed to him” he concluded, partly angry, partly disillusioned.
I began to follow the story from my home in Boston, joining the Facebook page, reading articles and blogs online about the vita cortex workers and their struggle just to get what they earned over years of hard work. I couldn’t believe his was happening in my home town. Watching the facebook page I came to realize I know some of the workers families, old family friends and school mates. It made it so much more real. I couldn’t switch off.
On day 100 I am reminded of the Irish mantra spoken by Irish mams and dads for decades “Get a good steady job and work hard in there, earn money to look after your children and you will have a fine pension and benefits at end of it.” It is ingrained in Irish psyche whether at home or abroad. And it seems to be only thing these 32 workers are guilty of: working hard, staying loyal to an employer and staying in a job for years making the company the success that it is.
That is where every employer in Ireland watching with bated breath wants this story to finish. To me the vita cortex workers are not just disgruntled workers who were treated .Their movement is bigger than a group of workers demanding what their owed. Their importance in Irish society today is they will play pivotal role in how employers will treat employees in the future. The VC32 realise this is not just about them. They are demanding a standard fairness and equality for all the generations to come after them.
The story of the VC 32 has touched people here in Boston and indeed worldwide. Why? They are our mothers ,fathers, uncles, aunts, brothers, sisters, cousins and friends. The stand they took against injustice warms our hearts because it is what this country was built on. If it wasn’t for strong willed determined people like vc32 we would not be the character of people we are today. We are known all over the world for our strength as people. “Tough as nails” and “the fighting Irish” are phrases used to describe us worldwide. .These workers are the epitome of these.
The Irish Famine Memorial in Boston
I’m not yet 30 but I know I would not have the courage the tenacity or the fortitude these 32 workers have shown all while dealing with cancer treatments, hospital visits, missing family functions and burying loved ones. It’s heartbreaking looking at this from America seeing the intolerable situation 32 workers have been put in just to get what is rightfully theirs. Here in America Ireland is revered by everyone regardless of their heritage. It is on the bucket list of everyone you meet, the dream country to see and it’s being run into the ground by people who got there with false promises taken advantage of antiquated laws still in place. You cannot judge a country by the top tier of society. Judge it by Mrs Wall who comes in with soup n sandwiches for 32 men and woman or by a small pizza shop that has fed these workers for one hundred days or by kids who send their message of support from Kenmare or the 5000 people who turned out on Cork streets to show their solidarity. These are the faces of Ireland. I believe that the VC32 and their supporters represent what it means to be Irish better than any TD going abroad to talk about Ireland. These people are the heart of this country.
Watching from Boston, the outpouring of support has been heart-warming. To see people turn up in droves in the streets to support and people from all over the world keep in contact with the workers so that when they wake up in morning in their drab surroundings they have words of support waiting for them reminds me of the Ireland I love .The VC32 are taking a stand for this Ireland and all of us who still believe in it. They are doing this for all workers everywhere all over the world who have ever been treated badly. They are doing this for the people of Ireland who had lost hope until their struggle became known. They are doing this for the little girl who will never ever forget the fear and panic in her own father’s face when it happened to him in the 80s.
I thank you, the Vita Cortex workers for standing up for your rights and in turn standing up for us and our children. I am proud to be Irish because of you. I believe you are creating a better Ireland we all might long to come home to one day. We are with you in Boston on Day 100. Keep her lit!
Eileen Byrd is from Cork, currently living in Boston. She has supported the worker’s fight from the U.S.A. over the past few weeks and sent this for Day 100. Her views are her own.