NOTE: IN ORDER TO BETTER SEE PHOTOS IN THEIR FULL 1600 PX. RESOLUTION, VIEW THEM IN THE ALBUM FORMAT BY CLICKING ON THE LEAD PHOTO OR ANY PHOTO IN THE POST. This is especially true for landscape shots. Thanks to Mark for the idea of adding this alert so the photos can be seen at their best!

Monday, August 17, 2015

Beloit's Iron Worker Murals and Thoughts on Walmart

Our "sister" Eye Contact office is in Beloit and last time I was there I drove into its old downtown to see what they had to look at. The Rock River flows through town, making Beloit a good place for industries such as milling, metalworking, paper making (from northern Wisconsin's lumber) and other factories to flourish since the city's beginnings.  While in downtown I bought a pair of shoes at a local shoe store, a brownie at a local coffee shop, and as I drove alongside the Rock River I spotted some iron worker murals.

I couldn't find much of on the Beloit Iron Works (1858-2000) on the internet, but did come across this interesting paper titled "The Beloit Iron Works and the Submergence of Class Struggle".  The first few paragraphs give a good brief background on class struggle and the labor movement and then goes on to talk about how the Beloit Iron Works  ".. never had to resort to force or other crude means to direct social life; instead they persuaded the workers to believe ― correctly or not ― that their interests coincided with those of the 'dominant group' ".  

Being the spouse of a union member I find the history of labor to be a complicated issue worthy of attention.  I feel strongly about workers' rights and conditions, and when I become aware of a company's poor record I try not to support them with my dollars.  A good resource for a list of companies that participate in fair labor practices can be found at Fair Labor Association's website.  Walmart is notorious for workplace unfairness and I spend as little money there as possible, even though it means multiple stops sometimes.  Unfortunately as a frequent traveler I do still shop there because often I am in places where my options are limited, I don't know where else to go, and I'm too tired or distracted to make a bigger effort.  I did try to find a local place to buy those tweezers earlier this summer when I had that tick problem, but the only general store my GPS found in the area was no longer in business.  Perhaps pushed out by larger competitors along the nearby interstate?  I really have to try harder, as I write this I am just a little bit ashamed.

I urge everyone to check it out and learn more about Walmart's horrific record here and abroad or just google "Walmart labor problems" and you'll have lots to choose from, their record goes back more than a decade and not much seems to have improved.  You can watch the movie "Walmart: the High Cost of Low Price" online for free too.  I was especially saddened by the working conditions in China and Bangladesh from the 12 minute section of the film that you can watch here.  Think it's old news because the film is from 2005?  I found this link about workers striking over safety concerns in Bangladesh here on YouTube after a collapsed building killed 1,100 workers just 2 years ago.  Want to know more about labor rights in general?  Check out Workplace Fairness and the International Labor Rights Forum.

Even though Beloit has some major industries that call it home such as Frito Lay and Hormel, the economy has been bleak for as long as I can remember.  Their unemployment rate is higher than the national average and the average household income is lower.  Of course where poverty is a concern so is crime and the city struggles with these problems.

There was one lovely example of Art Deco downtown, the Strong Building which was built in 1930.  I didn't get a look in the windows to see if any of the interior has been preserved, I was too busy admiring it from across the street.

On a lighter note, Robin Zander of the band Cheap Trick and Danica Patrick of NASCAR fame hail from Beloit, hopefully their upbringing in a depressed economy makes them conscientious of worker conditions and fair pay.  Want to make better shopping choices?  Try looking into some of the places you do business with at Responsible Shopper, though it seems the website is out of date so if you know of a better one please let me know.  And, yes, I am also linking up to Monday Mural!


  1. I love all of them, especially the B&W one(s)!
    So, no helmets required for Motorcycles in WI?
    Hmm....didn't know that...
    Have a Wonderful Week!!
    Peace :)

  2. Great murals and the Art Deco is outstanding. Tom The Backroads Traveller

  3. Ugh - I detest Walmart. I never, ever shop there. Luckily, there aren't many here in Portland. They tried to open one in my suburb many years ago, and the City council wouldn't approve their land use application. One of my aunts works at a Walmart in S. Dakota and she barely makes ends meet.

  4. The Deco building looks like a proud ship. The murals are wonderful--like gigantic photographs. Thanks for contributing to this week's Monday Mural.

  5. Really great post. I read it carefully and it is very helpful for me. Thanks for sharing. Iron workers in Missouri