Man films factory walkout, gives the most enthusiastic narration you've ever heard

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Lucky Black Cat's picture
Lucky Black Cat
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Sep 1 2018 17:36
Man films factory walkout, gives the most enthusiastic narration you've ever heard

About a month ago, a video went viral of a factory walkout, filmed and narrated by a man who has such intense enthusiasm, it makes me wish he could narrate a documentary series on every instance of working class struggle in history. This video had me beaming with a smile and punching my fist in the air.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ykb6Nk9_PjI

Unfortunately he frames it as solidarity based on them being Mexican, and saying how black people need to emulate this, rather than making it about something workers need to emulate across racial lines. But still, it's an invigorating, uplifting video.

The video made it to the front page of reddit and was awarded 5 golds (that's a helluva lot). If you look in the comments section, many of the top voted comments are people sharing their own stories of rising up with their coworkers against their bosses. It shows how hungry people are for workers to fight back.

Here's a taste:

Quote:
yungdroo 13.8k points 1 month ago*
I was an ice cream man at one point, and the company I worked for hired several international students to work for the summer. It was a good gig, but the managers were outright abusive at times. One of the student workers got really sick and had to stay in bed for two days, to which these managers replied by putting him on suspension for the rest of the summer. This meant he would not be able to switch his paperwork to a different job(since his employment isn’t technically terminated) and basically would have to sit unemployed for two months and come home with several thousand dollars of debt.

The day after this suspension got announced, all 6 of us ice-cream men packed into my ‘93 accord, but instead of going to work we hit up the liquor store and then bought all-day passes to play laser tag .We told the managers that they’d see us on our friend’s(the guy who was sick) next work day. They kept calling and trying to coerce/bully us to come work, but nobody was having it(and we all really needed our jobs too). The company owner met with us after a few days of this and our man got his job back. Gotta stick up for one another!

And another

Quote:
BROmanceNZ 17.6k points 1 month ago*x2
This happened to my mum. She works as a coach builder in a large workshop. One of, like, maybe four women out of a total of a few hundred at these workshops, and I think the only one to do actual mechanical work (the others work in admin roles). She's been doing it for longer than I've been alive (30 years) and knows her way around things like a car engine better than I can figure out how to open Chupa Chup wrappers sometimes.

She's pretty outspoken, especially when it comes to safety. Around 14 years ago, when I was still in high school, my mum got sent home by the site manager because she pointed out a safety hazard. The problem had just come up, but the national CEO happened to be doing a walk around and it made the site manager look bad. She didn't mean for that to happen but she'd rather the site be safe than someone's feelings be protected.

She gets told to pack up her tools and leave the site immediately with a disciplinary meeting to be called in a few days. She gets home absolutely livid an sets to calling an employment lawyer and checking in with her union. In the meantime, all of her colleagues in her area at the workshop were being treated to a free lunch on account of the CEO being there.

Every single guy loaded up their plate with free food then proceeded to dump the plates into the nearest skip bin in front of the site manager and the CEO. The eldest and most senior of them telling them they owed my mum an apology. Then they all packed their tools up, got in their cars, and drove around to our place to see if my mum was okay. She was in tears because of the support they'd shown her and, to this day, she loves them all like brothers.

Still, that didn't stop them all getting a bollocking from her for wasting good food.

She got an apology and the disciplinary hearing was cancelled. She later became the Site Safety Rep and the local Union delegate. The support those guys she works with gave her left a lasting impression on me how to treat co-workers and our family have been forever grateful to them for standing up for my mum so she didn't have to put up with shit alone.

You can find many more stories like that here: https://old.reddit.com/r/videos/comments/93vfy2/entire_factory_walks_off_the_job_after_a_few/?sort=confidence

Noah Fence's picture
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Sep 3 2018 17:13

Since my recent visit to the Americas I speak in exactly the same vernacular as the splendid fellow on the video. Spiffing stuff, er, I mean dat muthafucka speaking da real shit, bitch!

R Totale's picture
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Sep 3 2018 21:25

Yeah, it's a great moment, and nice to see people sharing their own stories - there's an interview with the narrator here for more background.

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Sep 4 2018 05:30

Thanks RT, this is fabulous...

Antoine Dangerfield said

Quote:
I just felt that power, man. It just felt good. They were walking out with their heads up, strong. It touched me. That’s why I was like, wow, this is beautiful. It was beautiful that they came together like that — stood up for themselves and not let that dude walk all over them.
Hieronymous's picture
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Sep 4 2018 05:34

As the yoof be saying, “word”

Cooked's picture
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Sep 4 2018 19:50

Did I misread the whole thing or did the walkout happen along race lines?! Perhaps I'm misreading it but it sounds as if the narrator is on the outside of the whole thing and that only the hispanics are in on it? Not very heartening if that's the case.

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Sep 5 2018 16:59
Quote:
As the yoof be saying, “word”

These days they're saying 'lit" or something like that...

Mike Harman
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Sep 5 2018 18:40
Cooked wrote:
Did I misread the whole thing or did the walkout happen along race lines?! Perhaps I'm misreading it but it sounds as if the narrator is on the outside of the whole thing and that only the hispanics are in on it? Not very heartening if that's the case.

Not quite. I'd wondered about this as well, but it's sounds both a bit more complicated and not actually bad at all. With only the video and the Jacobin interview to go on, you have to extrapolate a bit, so I could equally be reading wrong, but this is what I got from it.

interview wrote:
A thirty-year-old welder in Indianapolis, Dangerfield worked for a construction contractor building a UPS hub. On Tuesday, he says that a small number of Latino workers (millwrights, welders, and conveyor installers, in his telling) working for a different contractor but in the same hub were ordered home after disobeying the orders of a white boss he calls racist.

In response, the entire group of workers — over a hundred, in Dangerfield’s estimation — walked out.
....

"Ain’t no grinding, cutting, welding — this motherfucker dead-ass quiet. The Mexicans shut this motherfucker down."

interview again wrote:

But there wasn’t one [worker] left in the building.
....

Yeah. It was powerful, bro. They were proud of themselves, like they’re supposed to be. But [management] still paid everybody for the whole day. That’s how you know they were wrong. They sent everybody home, but I stayed until the end, because I was in awe.

So I think (this could be wrong, but is how I read it):

1.The work site is divided up by different contractors.
2. All of the employees of the contractor walked off the job after the group of a handful from that contractor were fired. They stopped work, had a meeting to discuss it, then physically walked out of the site. It sounds like the workers who walked out had a meeting at the level of the contractor, not the entire worksite.
3. Not sure about this bit, but sounds like the bosses then sent everyone else home for the day as well, and they all got paid - per the second interview excerpt.
4. The racist supervisor got sacked (as did Dangerfield).

So from that, the original dispute, sackings, mass meeting and walkout all took place within the framework of a single contractor, on a very large multi-contractor work site. That contractor was employing almost entirely (or all?) latino workers but they may not have been the only latino workers there.

However, all the workers for that contractor walked out. Then, it sounds like everyone else stopped work (voluntarily or not), and the entire work site was shut down for the day.

I don't think in this sense it's much different to a 1960s/70s car industry wildcat (per Glaberman). Where there's a dispute with a foreman in one department, the workers in that department shut the line down, and the rest of the factory stops work within a few minutes/hours. With the car factory example the rest of the factory just cannot physically work if one department stops, even though they have not consciously gone on strike, because there is no work to do. With this construction site it sounds like other workers not directly involved stopped work (to film, discuss it etc. - Dangerfield shows the completely silent building in the film) and then did not return to work, even if they didn't make a conscious decision to walk out as such.

Whether there were interdependencies between contractors that would physically prevent people from continuing to work, or whether bosses didn't want people to sit around discussing wildcat strikes the rest of the day, is an open question. Also whether people would have kept working if they'd been allowed to.

It's quite possible the overall building contractor system is dividing the workforce up along racial lines, but from the interview and the video it sounds like things all happened quickly enough that there wasn't the opportunity to for the strike to be explicitly divided along racial lines in terms of scabbing or anything.

The main determining factor in it looking divided along racial lines is that the original group of contractors didn't explicitly bring in other workers for the original walkout, but then they took a quick decision and shut the entire place down anyway (with active support from at least Dangerfield), so that wasn't strategically necessary for them to win the strike at all.

If I'd done an interview, I'd definitely have wanted to ask that question, and I would not entirely rule out Jacobin glossing over limitations like that, because I don't trust Jacobin in general.

So you could say that Dangerfield should have physically walked out of the building with the other workers, but he'd stopped work, filmed it with commentary, shown the entire worksite shut down, then posted the video for millions to watch - i.e. he'd still stopped work in solidarity.

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Sep 6 2018 08:53

There appears to be several ambiguities regarding this story. Over the years I had a few run-ins with UK ‘safety officers’.

This person described as a racist and called a safety officer/person, would be a tool of management, though that being the case, he was not a foreman or production supervisor. He would be there basically to cover the ass of his employers in the case of an event, which would give rise to a compensation claim by employees or a criminal type prosecution by the authorities.

In this role he would be popular with very few people. The role is contradictory, as management wish production to proceed unimpeded, while being able to deny any responsibility for mishaps (the blame being shifted onto the workers). Local management prefer to turn a blind eye to safety infractions if they would result in delays or extra costs. The last thing wanted is anyone to bring problems to light. In the case of this video, both the safety officer and the fellow who took the video broke this golden rule. So both were expendable minions.

I could give examples from experience of this shit. As a young fool I was sometimes encouraged to work without scaffolding, climb ladders that were not lashed, and work off roofing girders without any safety harness. Three times that I know of, our management was threatened with prosecution (our plant department ‘lost’ two plumbers in the space of about eighteen months for identical infractions). The story was always ‘next time we will take you to task’.

The question I wish had been asked is, “What was the safety guy videoing that no one wishes to talk about?”

Most workers rightly see ‘safety officers’ is spies, as no one wants to be caught with a bare bum.

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Sep 6 2018 20:01

It's not uncommon for different contractors or even skill sets in the construction industry to become dominated by a single nationality/background. Presumably even more so in USA? So that's a plausible explanation Mike. The framing of the whole thing by the narrator did make it seem like a race issue though.

Mike Harman
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Sep 6 2018 20:44

Yeah there's a base level black nationalism there and the one thing the interviewer does that is good is link that back to class.

jacobin wrote:
All the hate going on — we need to stick together. I think black people are moving in the right direction. We were down for a minute with the crack era. And you see the news, a lot of killings in the black community. Sometimes we don’t come together. But if they can do it, we can do it. And we can all come together. There’s power in numbers.

I don’t like racist anything. I don’t like people picking on people, bullying. It’s ridiculous. So when people come together, it’s a beautiful thing.
MU
They were specifically taking on a boss, taking action on the job.
AD
Yeah, and you can use that in any way. Votes, we could show up for. Or all corporations that have done you wrong.

We’re the ones, the workers — we make the heads get rich. Treating us lesser than isn’t even cool. We’re the reason the hub was getting built. Ain’t no owners out there in their hard hats. We’re the ones putting our life on the line. So you gotta respect us.

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Sep 8 2018 17:15

Thanks for linking to the Jacobin article, R Totale! grin

Antoine Dangerfield wrote:
I just felt that power, man. It just felt good. They were walking out with their heads up, strong. It touched me. That’s why I was like, wow, this is beautiful. It was beautiful that they came together like that — stood up for themselves and not let that dude walk all over them.

I ❤ this quote too, Noah Fence.

Cooked wrote:
Did I misread the whole thing or did the walkout happen along race lines?!

This was a concern of mine, too. But seeing the empty factory in the video made me think it must have gone beyond that, and that it was the film narrator who was making it a race thing.

Mike Harman is probably right in his interpretation of what actually went down. And I agree with you, Mike, that Jacobin should have addressed the race issue more directly. They do steer it back to class, as shown in the quote from your post #11, and it shows that Antoine also appreciates the class solidarity aspect of it, along with his admiration for the race solidarity aspect.

But still, Jacobin should have discussed these issues more directly with Antoine, and more explicitly brought it up in their questions. Because without doing so, it's like the elephant in the room.