Thursday, June 25, 2020

My World Part II

My father was in IBEW Local 1. My grandfather was in AMFA. I have uncles who were boilermakers and ironworkers and one who was in the other airline machinists' union, IAMAW. Further back I have all of the St. Louis bricklayers standing behind me, their blood running through my veins. This was literally all background noise until I lived with John and learned the inner workings of his union, LiUNA Local 42.

Without seeking it out, I got an education in union history, politics, future, pride, and failures. Anytime he got too tired handling his past in my safe quiet house that gave him nightmares and flashbacks, we would talk concrete or we would talk unions. The quilt I made him, in the blank spaces, are three leaf clovers and the number 42. It was important to him and became important to me.

When I knew him, I worked in the Catholic schools and unionization was forbidden. Don't even get me started on the hypocrisy of this. But once I was let go (partially because of no checks and balances that a union could provide), I found myself luckily in a new job with much better pay, benefits, and an optional union membership. I joined, thinking of my young friend who had died that summer and I toasted to him when my membership card arrived in the mail.

It didn't matter that year or the next year or even this past year. Our jobs are on a three year cycle, or rather, we are on a one year contract basis but the agreement about our salaries, benefits, working conditions, hiring, firing, and so forth is on a three year cycle. And that cycle is up.

Negotiations fell through and we are without a resolution and the district has refused mediation.

I don't know what will happen, and right now, where I am in the salary ladder, I'm good even if nothing changes from last cycle. And part of me was like "it's fine either way, life is really stressful right now".

But then John came nagging me in my head. John and Rich and Edward and Ned and Daniel and Kelly and Glennon and Patrick. All the dead men, a few living men, many who bear my name, who stood on picket lines the past 100 years.

So I wore red for ed last week, picketed outside the central offices right before the board meeting which of course is closed to the public because Covid. I don't know if the press we got will be enough to sour the taxpaying public on the district's money hoarding during this, the perfect rainy day to use that rainy day fund, but I'm glad I went. I'm glad I stood out there with my sign and waved at cars and got tired and my knee got sore and I went home sweaty and totally done wearing that damned mask but I showed up.

For like, the first time. If I'm going to be honest. I showed up and I didn't let all those people in my head down. Cheers, John.
Looking west, about 200 of us


  1. What a tribute to John, your Dad and family members, and to you too (standing up for yourself). I hope you get the results you want/need.

  2. Good for you. I belonged to a teacher's union when I taught in public schools, but I worked in a state where we were no allowed to strike.