Elizabeth Baier’s Final Project Package

19 Aug

Click on the headline links to see (and hear) Elizabeth Baier’s complete multimedia project package on the meatpacking plant strike that transformed Austin, Minn. It includes radio features, text stories, sidebars, photos and video. (Be sure to listen to the sound files embedded on the story pages.)

Main Project Page: “Austin at a Crossroads: 25 Years after the Hormel Strike”

This month marks the 25th anniversary of the Hormel labor strike that tore apart the town of Austin, Minn.

Part 1: “The Strike that Changed Austin,” Aug. 9, 2010

The best-paid meatpacking jobs in the country lured a new workforce that has transformed Austin. Stiehm and others say one of the catalysts for change began on a hot summer day 25 years ago, when workers at the Hormel plant went on strike. The strike became one of the longest in the 1980s. Hormel eventually won, and helped change the demographic landscape of this southeastern Minnesota town when it hired new workers at lower wages. Austin now has a deep dependence on mostly Mexican immigrant labor.

Part 2: “Newcomers Settle in Austin,” Aug. 10, 2010

As Juan Ramirez and his wife Laura sit in the living room of their Austin bungalow, they flip through a photo album that chronicles many of the family’s firsts … The Ramirezes were among the first Mexican families in Austin, one of dozens of rural cities around the Midwest coping with big demographic changes. Today, SPAM and tortillas both have a place on grocers store shelves, as the town struggles to adjust to a growing Latino population.

Part 3: “Fear and Nostalgia in a Changing Community,” Aug. 11, 2010

From her home in Austin, Linnea Burtch has embarked on a crusade against illegal immigration. In her living room, she keeps a briefcase full of newspaper clippings and fliers that advocate for strict enforcement measures … Austin is among hundreds of rural towns around the country where immigrant workers seeking the promise of a better life have altered the community. That bothers some longtime Austin residents, who long for the old Austin.

Part 4: “Bridging The Gap,” Aug. 9, 2010

Jorge Pozos owns a popular taco truck in Austin. He’s watched communities and cultures collide in other Midwest cities, but says the process of mutual accommodation is not impossible.


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