“I heard about the closure on television on the six o’clock news. Then, a couple weeks later they phoned me up and said ‘you got a 35-year pin that we have here. We’d like to give it to you.’ I said ‘okay.’ He said, ‘meet us at the front gate.’ You know, everything was closed so the fellow, our superintendent at the time, he gave me the 35-year pin. You can picture a chain linked fence, he handed it to me through the fence. ‘Here is your 35-year pin.’”
The story of the 35-year pin is emblematic of the anger and loss felt by many across the deindustrialized world. This particular story was shared with me in 1998 by a former steelworker in Lackawanna, New York, but I have heard many other stories like it over the past quarter century researching the far-reaching consequences of mine, mill, and factory closures. The United States alone lost eight million manufacturing jobs between 1979 and 2010, much of this in the Rust Belt.