By Nadrat Siddique
This past weekend, I was in Oklahoma City for a friend's wedding. Walking around the downtown, I passed roads and a small city park named for Robert Kerr and Dean McGee. An elementary school and a high school were similarly named for the principles of the Kerr-McGee Nuclear Corporation. It reminded me that a heroine of my teen years, Karen Silkwood, was murdered here in the 1970s.
While working for Kerr-McGee, Silkwood found the corporation endangering its workers through highly unethical and likely illegal industry practices. She became a whistleblower, and thus the target of the company’s malfeasance. Ultimately, she was murdered when her car was run off the road.
It was the Silkwood case which convinced me of the importance of the labor (she was the union representative for workers at her Kerr-McGee location); of environmentalism (although Kerr-McGee paid a large settle ment to the Silkwood estate, they refused to admit fault; however Silkwood and the union alleged corporate negligence which led to the contamination of workers with plutonium; and of activism (had Silkwood remained silent and tolerated Kerr-McGee’s abuse of its workers, she might be alive today; instead, she insisted on investigating, organizing and agitating for workers’ rights, despite being aware of the risks of challenging a corporate giant).
So, Silkwood is dead, and the Men in Black suits—Kerr and McGee—who likely ordered her murder are honored to this day in Oklahoma City.