210. A Factory Worker

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Many years ago, some women made a meager living by working in a cigarette factory. It was their job to put 20 cigarettes in each pack, by hand. Their manager was a mean old man. He carried a bamboo rod in his hand. His bodyguard, who accompanied him everywhere, was even meaner.

Maura, only 19, was sick. But she knew that if she didn't go to work, she would lose her job. At the factory that day, she stuffed pack after pack of cigarettes. Sweating and dizzy, she left a cigarette out of one pack. The manager noticed her error immediately. He yelled at her and then hit her sharply across her back with the rod. Then the bodyguard kicked her in the stomach. Maura got up and staggered out of the factory. She died at home the next day.

The day after Maura died, her coworkers refused to enter the factory. They stood outside. The manager told them to get to work. He raised his arm as if to strike them, but they stood firm. He told them he was going to get the police. They still didn't move. The bodyguard went inside and called the police.

The police chief came. The women told the police chief what had happened to Maura. He arrested the manager and the bodyguard. He called the owner of the factory. A new manager arrived later that morning. He told the workers that they would all get the equivalent of a nickel per day raise. They went back to work.

Before the chief handcuffed the manager and put him in the police car, the manager quietly offered the chief a great deal of money to let him "escape." He told the chief he would leave the country and never return.


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