SWEAT STAINED REVIEW: CONFESSIONS OF A BLUE COLLAR MISFIT
UAW on Strike: How You Can Help
By Dan Denton
One of the questions I’ve been asked the most over the years is “how can I help?” anytime there’s a strike on somewhere around us, and I’ve been asked about a dozen times now, from the man on the street in Chicago that stopped me when he saw my UAW Toledo Jeep jacket, to local elected representatives messaging if I’ve heard of anything needed on the picket lines at the Toledo Jeep Plant where roughly 6,000 UAW members have been on strike now for seven days. The Toledo Jeep Plant where I spent the last 10 years as a line worker, team leader, chief union steward and UAW constitutional delegate.
So, you want to help? Thank you for your support and well wishes. I got you. With the UAW expanding the historic Stand Up Strike action to include GM and Stellantis (formerly Chrysler) parts depots, it’s likely in the coming days you may see striking auto workers in your city or state. This is what they need.
The most simple and basic way to show your support for striking union workers is to simply drive by and honk your horn a few times. That’s it. It’s that easy. Can you spare 10 or 15 extra minutes on your commute to drive by and honk? You have no idea how much of a morale boost it is on a picket line to hear how many in your community support you in your fight.
Don’t have a car? No problem. Share the things you see the UAW putting out on your social media. Just a few times a week. That simple act lets everyone that knows and follows you know where you stand. It lets those in your community know where you stand. That support is so powerful that unions and companies alike spend thousands trying to figure out where public opinion falls, and trying to find ways to shift public support in their favor. Imagine the strength and power your local union could bargain with if they knew the majority of their city and community are behind them.
Now, if you’ve gotten this far, and if you’re anything like me, and please god I hope you’re not, but if you still want to do more, here’s what I do.
I’ve had the honor of walking and supporting nearly every strike action in a 50 mile radius of Toledo over the last decade. There’s a few I’ve missed, but one thing about me, if there are workers anywhere fighting for justice on their jobs, I’ll do anything, no matter how small, to show up and let them know I’m Dan Denton from UAW Local 12, I brought some things. Anything else you guys need I can help with?
Most times these days, if it’s a strike in Toledo, I know someone striking or from the union that’s striking. Meeting up with your friend or neighbor and walking the line with them to show solidarity, makes for a more comfortable show of support for sure, but even if I don’t know a single person on that particular strike, I’ve been a worker for so long that I know I’m on their side and they’re my work family. My goal is always to help support them to stand outside the locked gates of their employer for as long they can, to get what they deserve.
On my way to a picket line I’ll stop at the local Kroger or Meijer, you know, the two local chains staffed by UFCW workers, and I’ll grab a case or two of water, maybe some Gatorade, a few boxes of granola bars, some bananas, some cookies maybe, and I’ll take my $20 worth of offerings down to the picketers. I always show up in a UAW shirt, but that’s not required. I’m just letting them know I’m their brother. But I’ve never once met a union strike that didn’t appreciate well wishes and snacks, even from distant union relatives they’ll never cross paths with again.
Those on strike at Toledo Jeep are on six hour picket schedules, and six hours in the outdoors makes anything comfort related an ideal donation. Right now in Toledo, and other UAW strike locations, firewood is a daily important need so my brothers and sisters can stay warm at night while they man the company gates 24/7. But water, sodas, easy to eat snacks, hand warmers and handshakes are always welcome donations of support.
If you want to still do more, and you are of more means than some, calling a local restaurant and ordering food to send down to the strike lines is always a neat thing to add to your karma box. I’ve pitched in with 10 others to spend $50 a piece to feed lunch to a picket once, and once I accidentally spent $500 of my own sending sandwiches and soup to the St V’s UAW strike a few years ago. That one got me an argument back home, but my intentions were good, I’m just not good at math. I figured it would only cost $250, but felt so good doing it, I did it anyway when I learned the real cost. I can’t do that now, but if you can, the local restaurant and the hungry picketers would both love you for it.
Or maybe send the local coffee food truck down and tell them the first $500 is on you. I’ve wanted to do that, but can’t yet. But you should if you could. And pay attention to those in your community, the people, the elected community leaders, food trucks, restaurants and businesses that support the strikers. Those are your people now. Let them know you love them.
Do you always need to know why the workers are even striking to support them? Hell no. Always remember at the end of the day millionaires are telling working people they should work for less. Whether that’s less money, benefits, time off, or retirement, it’s always millionaires on one side telling the workers they deserve less. Which side are you on in this equation?
Do you have to be a union member to support a strike? Hell no. Unions are strongest when their members stand together with as many from the community standing behind them as they can get.
Why should I support a UAW strike when those workers already make more than I do in my job? Because what the UAW fights for and earns, they fight to earn for all workers. The UAW has helped shape so much of our labor laws, and to this day, other non union auto plants and factories and forced to raise their wages and benefits to compete with the Big 3 in finding workers. What the UAW earns in this contract will likely help shape your income and benefits in the future. Imagine if they’re successful in earning the 32 hour work week and thus lead the charge to reshape how we value work in this country.
And one thing I shouldn’t have to even mention, but I realize not all of you have paid union dues or spent 2,000 hours listening to Woody Guthrie songs, but don’t ever cross a picket line. Don’t ever cross a picket line. I can not stress this enough. Never cross a fucking picket line.
Stay away from the auto show in Detroit. Postpone buying your next new car. The automaker executives and shareholders have been stuffing millions in their pockets while UAW workers are beating up their bodies day after day, just trying to stay ahead. It shouldn’t be this way. We need your help. Share this story. Drive by and honk. Share the UAW clips and memes. Take some water and food, and bring a few hugs down to your neighbors on the Toledo Jeep picket lines. Bring firewood if you got it. Or to whichever picket line is nearest to you.
Stand strong UAW family. I’m going to keep trying to find ways to help as a writer, and I’ll see you out there on the line again soon.
Dan Denton is a former UAW chief steward and union autoworker turned full time writer. His next book The Dead and the Desperate is available for preorder from Roadside Press. Everyone says it’s a true life, harrowing look at life as an American factory worker.