Jeffboat Wildcat Still Going Strong - Daphne d'Angelo (posted to Indymedia), May 4, 2001
Jeffersonville, IN - I've spent the past four nights walking a picket line at the local shipyard. Doing the 9pm - 2am shift. I'm so tired. If you asked me two weeks ago did I think I would be turning my life upside down so I could sit outside in the middle of the night with a bunch of burly teamster guys, I would have never have believed it. The shipyard is ghostly, eerie feeling. It's oh, so empty. No clanging, banging. No cranes whirring. Just dead and silent.
Teamsters are a noble people. I usually sit quietly after I bring them donuts and coffee. Sometimes, I sit in on a hand of cards. I don't know how to play Euchre, though. Cars and trucks blow their horns when they pass by, in support of the wildcat strike.
I'm learning all kinds of vocabulary words:
Wildcat strike - A strike that is not sanctioned by the union. Which means there is no strike pay, or benefits for the workers on strike. Basically, they're on their own.
Seven hundred and fifty workers were fired on Wednesday for not reporting back to work. One woman I talked to her daughter busted her appendix on Wednesday. The woman had been up all night sitting in a restaurant parking lot, across from the shipyard, sunburned and cold, holding her own with fifteen teamster men. This morning she was told if she didn't come back to work, she was fired. She walked the picket lines, instead. Holding the gate. Only two scabs get by.
Scab - a worker who accepts employment or replaces a union worker during a strike.
The woman calls the hospital, checks on her daughter, "Baby, you need me to come by?"
"Aw, mom, I was scared, but my sisters are here, I'm not alone, and they need you more than I do. I'm all right."
So, she teaches me a card game, calls the hospital, keeps the parking lot clean, holds her sign, and loses her pay.
At least it's spring, they could be outside in the dead of winter. I am floored by their solidarity. Out of eight hundred workers, only fifty or so passed the picket line. So, the yard is shut down. There are no barges being built. Jeffboat is losing contracts, and millions of dollars. The workers realize if they keep holding the gate, keep walking the line, it will be better for everyone in the long run.
My best friend's husband is a welder. Actually, he's a painter, but that doesn't pay the bills. Come to find out, neither does being a welder. He took this difficult job so that Mona could stay home with their baby. So that they could have health insurance for their son. Their health insurance never pays for anything. It doesn't even pay for well baby checkups, so Mona hasn't taken their baby to the doctor in a year.
They have had their phone and electricity cut off because they couldn't pay the bill.
And so I sit in the lot. Monday's the big day. I'm afraid of what will happen. There's an undercurrent of violence and anger. The almighty head of the enormous teamster union is coming on Sunday to the union hall for Local 89 for a meeting. The workers hope against all odds he will say that he will sanction the strike. Which means the workers will receive a strike pay of $200 a week. And be able to keep their insurance. And will not be fired for striking. But, apparently, that's a long shot. The guys think President James P. Hoffa will basically just tell them to bend over.
So, tonight, I'll make sure I'm dressed warmly, and take them coffee, and sit and listen and absorb. I can't believe I'm so lucky to be a part of this amazing event. How did this happen? I'm a gardener. I usually spend my days looking at bugs and flowers.
DISCLAIMER - Daphne d'Angelo is not representing the IWW and this report is neither endorsed nor condemned by the organization. Furthermore, this post was appropriated from Indymedia by the IWW.ORG website administration and its inclusion here is not meant as an endorsement of the IWW by Daphne d'Angelo.