One summer during college, I sold Electrolux vacuum cleaaners door-to-door in Dundalk. I discovered two things: I'm an awful salesman (I may have set a record for, literally, not selling anything) and there are more unemployed steelworkers in Dundalk than I ever imagined.
I felt like I met them all that summer, though more often, I probably met their wives. This was a typical exchange... I'd bound up the steps clutching some form of Electrolux paraphernalia, knock on the door, and be greeted by a woman shaking her head at the sight of me. "Hon, I can't afford one of those machines," they'd say. "My husband's laid off down the Point." But we'd often get talking—sometimes, over a cup of coffee or glass of iced tea—about the politics of Bethlehem Steel and the effects of layoffs on families and communities, and, over the course of a few months, I got an education in labor relations to go with my English degree.
Today, RG Steel announced it was laying off nearly 2,000 workers at Sparrows Point, and I thought about how it will affect all those families. I know, firsthand, they won't be buying Electrolux vacuum cleaners, or any other non-essential items, this summer.