This particular 2007 episode of 'This American Life' details the story of the John Pickle plant in Tulsa, Oklahoma. The episode is especially notable for its extraordinarily moving portrait of exploited workers in America, and of Good Samaritan Mark Massey, who took it upon himself to help when no one else would. Two stories of the unintended consequences of market forces.
Type of audio resource: Radio program
Program title: This American Life
Episode number: 344
Episode title: The Competition
Original air date: November 30, 2007
Total time: 61:11
Detailed description: Host Ira Glass talks to reporter John Bowe about the story of John Nash Pickle, who ran a company in Tulsa, Oklahoma that made steel tanks used in the oil industry. According to 52 Indian men whom Pickle hired and brought to America, Pickle was trying to compete with foreign companies, doing something most companies never try. Instead of simply opening a factory overseas with cheap labor, the men say, Pickle decided to run an overseas factory with cheap labor... on American soil... inside his own Tulsa, Oklahoma plant.
Act 1, Cowboys and Indians, continues the story of John Pickle. He hires skilled, experienced welders in India and brings them to the United States. He takes their passports, barely feeds them, pays them half the minimum wage. And when the men protest, Pickle insists he's helping them—doing them a favor in fact. (32 minutes, begins at 2:59)
John Bowe's book, in which this story appears, is called Nobodies: Modern American Slave Labor and the Dark Side of the New Global Economy.
Act 2, The Race for Second Place, features Thanh Tan, a TV reporter in Boise, Idaho, whose boss had passed along to her what seemed like a hot news tip: A sex offender was working with kids at a local ice rink, as a hockey referee. But when she looked into it, she found out the crime was more than a decade old. Plus, the guy's statutory rape charge had been dismissed by a judge. So she never did the story. But her closest TV news competitor ran with it, making it "exclusive" breaking news, for days. Thanh tells the story of how it got on the air, and how it affected everyone involved. (23 minutes, begins at 35:18)
Thanh's story was co-produced by Dmae Roberts.
© 1995-2011 WBEZ Alliance, Inc. & Ira Glass. This American Life is produced by Chicago Public Radio and distributed by Public Radio International.
Read John Ruskin's 1860 classic, Unto This Last, where he outlines the importance of inserting humanity into economics.
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