Globalization is tearing at the fabric of American society. Locked in a high-stakes struggle and on the verge of a trade war, the United States and China each want a piece of the action—and both countries will do just about anything to ensure success. But when a union boss is murdered while leading a strike against sending American jobs offshore, everything begins to change, especially for John Shay.
John, a union leader at a stale point in his marriage and at work, takes over the strike along with his chosen partner, Hannah Stein, a tough negotiator who loves to be on the line with strikers, but who is also battling complicated personal demons. Aided by Chinese activists and a Native American woman working in Asia to combat digital piracy, the two partners soon realize the strike is just a piece on a much larger game board. As Hannah and John stumble into a thicket of intrigue, mounting unrest spills into the streets of China and the United States.
In this intense thriller, two union leaders unwittingly snared in a geopolitical drama between two heavyweight nations are determined to fight for the American working class, even if it means putting their own lives on the line.
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Read an Excerpt
By John Martin
iUniverse, Inc.Copyright © 2012 John Martin
All right reserved.
Chapter OneShenzhen, Guangdong Province, People's Republic of China
A bum rummaged through a Dumpster in the lot. As he picked over the trash, he glanced at the tractor trailers lined up outside a loading dock, their idling engines filling the air with fumes. Several men were sitting on the edge of the dock, smoking and talking. A man came out of the factory and kicked one of them. The men jumped off the dock and put out their butts. They returned to their rigs and climbed into the cabs.
As the bum pulled something from the garbage, he caught a glimpse of a forklift, with LAMBAL INTERIOR stenciled on the side, driving out of the plant and into the open back of a truck. The driver lowered the forks and withdrew them, leaving the pallet in the vehicle; he backed up beeping as another forklift driver passed him with a load.
The truck filled quickly. The workmen shut the doors and secured them with a lock. The truck pulled away from the bay. The next truck backed up slowly to the loading zone, until it pressed against the concrete wall.
The bum was now sitting at the base of the Dumpster, a lunch bag of discarded food on his lap. He was chewing, holding a fragment of sandwich in his left hand—which was shaking. Lin Xueqin was a long way from the lecture halls of Tsinghua University in Beijing, where he taught differential equations to undergraduates as a teaching assistant. The skinny thirty-year-old had a scruffy beard from a month's growth and matted hair from not bathing for weeks, to make him look older and smell awful.
He tried to steady his trembling hand by reaffi rming his unshakable purpose—the Chinese worker deserves a better life. That failing, he took a more practical tack, pressing his left elbow against his body. Then, as the first vehicle pulled past him and turned onto the road, he began to text with his right thumb on the mobile concealed beneath the bag.
A mile up the road, a man dozing in a car in the parking lot of a strip mall woke with a start to the ringtone from "My City," by Hong Kong rapper DopeBoy8Five2. He found himself singing the song's hook unconsciously as he sat up straight and read the text message on the screen. As he turned the key in the ignition and started the car, he looked left and spotted the semi he was supposed to follow.
Chapter TwoNew York City
John Shay sat next to Jack Cafferty, the head of the United Machinists; the other members of the union bargaining team were on either side of them. Peter Lambal, owner and chief executive of Lambal Interior—the auto supplier they were striking—sat across the table. He was flanked likewise by lieutenants.
Cafferty leaned in to Shay. The union chief was heavyset, but thick white hair and a rough face offset the otherwise weakened look of extra flesh.
"Should I give them the keys to the house, John?"
Shay shook his head.
Cafferty turned back to Lambal. "My partner says no. That means it must be too good a deal for you."
Lambal had a patrician look—tall, thin, groomed. He had dressed less elegantly than usual, at his chief negotiator's request. This was the first time he had attended a session.
"How long did you rehearse that exchange?"
"You should smile when you make jokes," Cafferty said. "Otherwise I'll think you're just a son of a bitch and have no intention whatsoever of coming to an agreement with us. And if I think that, I'll get up and leave this table and not come back. And everything you ever worked for—excuse me, your daddy ever worked for, and put under your Christmas tree—will go to hell."
"Jack, Jack," said George Lyons. He was Lambal's chief negotiator, seated to his right. "Don't make this personal."
Cafferty raised his thick eyebrows. "Don't make this personal?" He turned to Shay. "Did you hear that, John? Don't make this personal?"
Here it comes, Shay thought.
Cafferty glared at Lambal. "You want my members—the ones who are left—to work overtime and be too dog-tired to spend time with their families so you won't have to hire anybody new and shell out for more benefits. Then you want them to double their contribution to your health insurance plan. Switch to a 401(k) defined-contribution pension plan—where the only thing defined is the contribution, not the benefit."
He slammed his hand on the table. "You want my men"—he looked down the table at the lone woman on his team—"excuse me, my men and women to give up the seniority they sweated for, year in and year out, working over a lifetime in your plants, so one day you can dump them and get a temp or low-wage replacement to take their place. On top of that, you threaten to send more work to China. We're not supposed to take that personally? That's not personal?"
Cafferty looked at Shay and then across to Lambal. "What the hell is personal if that's not personal? The kind of French aftershave—excuse me, cologne, you moneyed bastard—you put on your silky, smooth skin this morning?"
Lambal popped up like a jack-in-the-box. "That's it—I'm out of here."
He was at the door before the rest of his management team could react and follow. They caught up with him in the hallway.
When they had left, Cafferty turned to Shay, and they both began laughing.
Chapter ThreeShay left the negotiating room at the New York Marriott Eastside and went downstairs to the 525LEX lounge. The bartender flicked his head when he saw him take a seat at the bar and reached into the cooler for his usual.
Shay leaned forward and put his arms on the bar. His wrists and forearms showed past the sleeves of his navy sport coat; he was wearing a tan T-shirt underneath. He was thirty-eight, fair Irish. Blue eyes, brown hair cut short. Two-day stubble.
He pulled out his cell and tapped the touch screen. Got her machine.
"Hi, it's me," he said after the beep; he nodded to the barkeep as he plopped down the bottle. "I love you. I'm sorry it happened. We'll do better next time."
Shay hung up. He had argued with his wife that morning. At breakfast he reached into the pantry for cereal—and pulled out an empty box. His wife and son did it all the time—finished something and put back the container, even into the refrigerator. Mostly he made it a family joke—as in, why are we paying for electricity to cool a carton?
This time he'd snapped, spewed out a string of curses. She'd countered with how hard she worked—at her job, with their son, around the house—and said she didn't have time to worry about some damn box. He had thrown back his own list of drudgery.
He took a swig of beer. If he'd let her vent, she would have been fine. Then he realized he'd broken the cardinal rule—don't talk first thing in the morning. In the self-help department, he knew that if he hadn't overreacted, it wouldn't have started.
Truth was, they'd been at it for months, he thought. They had been together eleven years—ten married, one off the books. Gotten into the rut most people do, especially after a child. You get swamped by things you have to take care of, start snapping at each other. You go to kiss her good-bye; she turns her head. You have a question but don't ask, because you don't feel like getting into a discussion.
"Lost in thought?"
Shay turned and smiled at Hannah Stein, the woman negotiator on the team. "Buy you a drink?"
She flicked her head at his bottle. "Same. I could use one after Jack's performance upstairs."
Shay ordered another. "He needed to show them something, and he did."
"That he's so crazy, he might do something not in the interest of his members."
Hannah nodded to Shay as the bartender brought another bottle of Stella. When she smiled in thanks, he looked like he had gotten a fifty-dollar tip.
The bartender walked toward the other end of the bar, glancing back at Hannah as she clenched a green elastic band between her teeth. She was twenty-seven and looked taller than her five foot eight as she sat erect, pulling her hair back in a ponytail, which she choked with the band. She had dark brown eyes and thin lips she clamped tightly at the center point; a few freckles were splashed about her cheekbones. She was wearing a tight apple-green tee with high-cut sleeves, jeans, and sneakers.
"Taking the train home?" she asked.
"Driving. How about you? Big date tonight?"
She smiled. "No." She took a slug of beer.
Hannah shrugged; she wondered if he knew. She took another drink.
Shay glanced at the caption on the TV; he asked the bartender to turn it up.
"The United States and China are on the verge of a trade war," the news anchor said. "China's government announced today that it will retaliate for trade sanctions imposed by the president. President Rodgers ratcheted up the pressure on the Chinese by levying a whopping 100 percent tariff on China's solar cell exports to the United States, citing both unfair government assistance and dumping below cost. With unemployment rising across the country, Rodgers also pinned a 25 percent tariff on Chinese clothing exports, after a major garment manufacturer closed up shop in North Carolina."
Hannah and Shay watched as the screen flashed a shot of the shuttered plant. The anchor handed off the story to a reporter. She was walking alongside the chain-link fence on the sidewalk in front of the factory; weeds had already reclaimed the cracks between the sections. Shay saw "Textile" on the building sign before the camera cut away.
It might as well be Steel, Electronics ... Machinery, Paper ... Furniture, Shoes, Toys ... he thought, ticking off industries where companies had folded against the onslaught of cheap goods—or rushed for the exits themselves to produce offshore.
"The president cited the World Trade Organization's 'safeguard action' provision as justification for his latest measures," the reporter said. "WTO safeguard actions provide temporary assistance, and an opportunity to adjust, to any industry found to suffer serious injury as a direct result of increased imports. A high-ranking commerce official put it this way: 'We're through sparring. It's time to deliver some real body blows.'"
The Chinese reacted furiously, even as the administration tried to walk back the comment. The newscast ran a clip of a Shanghai politician who called a press conference at a construction site, where he promptly leapt into a US-made construction vehicle, drove it off rough ground onto a paved lot, and began smashing it with a sledgehammer. Onlookers joined in, taking turns swinging the heavy hammer.
"This is getting serious," Hannah said.
Shay smiled at the antics on the screen. "The Chinese remind me of Jack."
"One big difference," she said.
"They'll really do something that's not in their interest."
"Let them," Shay said. "This has to come to a head. Every freakin' thing in the stores is made in China. Most of the people who were making that stuff here don't know how to do anything else. We've got to buy them time while they—maybe it'll be their kids—figure out what to do next."
"That's the first explanation I've heard that makes sense," Hannah said. "A lot of the guys just want to roll back the clock, as if we can take back all that work."
"Maybe we can," the voice boomed as Cafferty inserted himself between them. "Bobby, bring me a beer, and another for my buddy. Hannah?"
"I'll have to pick up my pace." She lifted the bottle, took a swallow.
Cafferty watched her and smiled. "Bobby, you know Hannah?" he asked.
The bartender shook his head. He was tall, built square and strong—manufactured quality. Cafferty introduced them and added a postscript. "Bobby was a defensive tackle in high school, switched to linebacker by his coach at Cortland State. Four-year starter. He just joined the marines, heading to Parris Island ... when?" "Six weeks," the bartender said.
"We salute you," Cafferty said. Shay and Hannah raised their bottles.
"Thank you, Mr. Cafferty," Bobby said, and then he moved away to a customer holding his hand in the air.
"Where've you been?" Shay asked. "Chasing Lambal to hell and back?"
"I'm not going after him. He's coming back to me."
"When?" Hannah asked.
"Don't know," Cafferty said. "They said they didn't feel it would be 'productive' to schedule more talks right now."
He grabbed the bar menu. "Who wants plantains? The cook here is half–Puerto Rican, fries up a mean pan. You'll swear you're back on the island." The Machinists had held several annual conventions in Ponce, on Puerto Rico's southern coast.
Hannah and Shay went along. Cafferty ordered the sweet bananas.
"How's the line holding?" Shay asked.
"Strong," Cafferty said. "They pushed one button too many when they threatened to close more operations and build a second plant in China."
The bartender clanged down three beers. Cafferty tapped his bottle against Shay's and clinked Hannah's, brushing against her as he took a swig.
"One button too many," he repeated.
Chapter FourShay was awakened in the middle of the night; he knocked a bottle of water off the night table, fumbling for the cell. The sleep passed from his face as he listened.
"I'll come right away."
He sat up on the edge of the bed.
"What is it?" his wife, Anne, asked.
He told her.
"Oh my God."
Shay drove into the city to Roosevelt Hospital. He exited the elevator on Hannah's floor and walked down the hall to the nursing station. He was directed to a waiting room crammed with people. He embraced her mother and father. "How is she?"
Her father nodded. "She's good. Doc says she'll be fine. Couple of days here." He looked down the hall. "She's sleeping now. You can see her later."
Shay put his hands on her father's shoulders and squeezed; he kissed her mother on the cheek. He moved away as relatives came over, and joined a group of union people—a mix of officers, board members, and admins. He shook hands with some and hugged others.
Bill Lewis, second-in-command to Cafferty in the United Machinists, came up to him. They embraced. Lewis pulled him away from the group.
"I can't believe it," he said when they were alone in a corner.
"Where's Doris?" Shay asked.
"She's home. I'm going over there in a few minutes."
Shay realized how tough it was going to be—Cafferty's wife had just beaten back cancer. "What happened on the road?"
Lewis was a couple of inches taller than Shay, six foot two. He was a little overweight, beginner's level, with a salt-and-mostly-pepper goatee, hair not quite short, hint of Afro. He was sixty-four. "We don't know much. They left the hotel together after the talks. A few hours later they were driving southbound on the West Side Highway. Someone hit them. They smashed through a section of temporary barrier, hit a tree. The air bags engaged, saved them. But he had a heart attack."
Lewis leaned in. "Did you know those two ...?"
Lewis took a breath, the exhale audible. "Listen, leadership's been talking. We want you to take over negotiations."
"That's yours, Bill. You're next in line."
"That's the point. I'll be going in every direction, getting things straightened out. I need you to bring this one home."
"What about my other work?" Shay had run negotiations, but his main job was training organizers. He also evaluated IT and production technology and their effect on contracts, work rules, and member skills and training.
"I'll parcel it out. We can get by."
Shay nodded. "Sure, I'll do it. One condition."
"Hannah's my number two."
"If you think she's ready."
Hannah had been with the union three years, plucked by Shay from a pool of candidates coming out of Cornell University's School of Industrial and Labor Relations.
"She is," Shay said, as he eyed a policeman walking toward them.
"Hey, Tony," Lewis said.
The cop stuck out his hand. "I'm really sorry about Jack," he said as they shook.
"Thanks, Tony. John, this is Tony Palazzo. Tony, John Shay."
They shook hands.
"Tony's a good friend of the union," Lewis said.
The cop looked around the room. "Can we talk somewhere?"
"You can say it right here. John's in our circle."
"I spoke with the lead investigator at the scene," Palazzo said. "They think someone ran Jack off the road."
The funeral Mass was held at St. Patrick's Cathedral. Machinists' members and local labor leaders were joined by labor leaders from around the country. The crowd that assembled to pay their respects included New York's governor and the city's mayor. The president sent the secretary of labor.
"Let us pray for the soul of Jack Cafferty," the archbishop said during the remembrance, speaking from the main altar of the sanctuary. "Let us not say our final good-byes, because we know he lives in God, in our hearts, and in the union he loved. But let us pray for him and for his family."
Excerpted from LOST SOURCE by John Martin Copyright © 2012 by John Martin. Excerpted by permission of iUniverse, Inc.. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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