Our contract expires in two days. We don’t know what to expect, but most of the buzz is not happy. The newspapers report a big signing bonus coming. We know what this means: A big fat bribe, and not much after that. I come from generations of labor activists. My grandfather was a strike captain for 42 years. My mother is a labor activist. I’ve spent more time on picket lines than I care to recall. We’ve taken coffee and donuts from everyone from the Greyhound drivers to the Detroit Symphony Orchestra musicians. The real wild card of my family of organizers, though, was my great-grandmother. She’s been gone since 03, but she was a wild one in her day. The two people I wish more than anything I had to talk to about this upcoming contract are my grandfather, whom we lost less than a year ago (the last conversation I had with him before he died was about Chrysler, if you can believe it) and my great-grandmother, his mother-in-law. Well, my sister told me this very morning that she dreamt of my great-grandmother. She came for a visit, if you believe in that sort of thing. She came with advice about the upcoming contract, amazingly. She said to do the math: Bonuses vs. raises. Then to shout it from the rooftops. So there you have it.
When the ancestors come to visit and offer advice, it seems pretty clear that the shit’s about to hit the fan. There are other things brewing on the shop floor that bode ill, as well. Discontent and animosity, division and strife. But. But, there is a thread of solidarity that seems to be developing, finally, among the new folks and old. Leave it to management, trying to pull some slick shit. Finally, people are starting to realize that the bosses never want us to have any sense of a shared fate, even in the smallest ways. Remember, brothers and sisters, if they come for us in the morning, they’ll come for you that night. Let cooler heads prevail. Don’t let anyone provoke you into anything stupid. If someone says something that is just begging for an ass-kicking (cause there’s plenty of that), just let it slide for now. Write it down and save it for later. But for now, remember, it is us and them. They want excuses to get rid of us, to do more and more and more with less and less and less. Now is the time for solidarity, between 1st & 2nd tier, between men & women, Black & white, old and new. Don’t let our differences, petty or large, get in the way. We work our asses off, we deserve fair treatment and we need to have each other’s backs. Cause management sure as shit doesn’t.
Stepchild in the Promised Land