Adventures in Striking

So I’m officially on strike today. Viva la Huelga! Up the establishment! Power to the people and all that crap. I’m going to spend a lot of money to send a message to the capitalist pigs that I work for, that worker’s have nothing to lose but their chains, yadda, yadda, yadda...

Of course, I’ve been out once before. For one whole day. I don’t even belong to the union, but if enough of the people that suffer under the same contract as I do feel like they’re not getting a square deal, then I’m probably not either, and I’ll walk with them.

Seven years ago we had a rally at the Museum of Flight, and I carried this sign. It says “Will design airplanes for food”. Something like that is just too precious to throw away, and I didn’t. Back then, I got my picture in the local paper holding that sign in the rain and cold. My mother said that I looked like a Nazi. She apparently can’t tell the difference between a Nazi and a Bolshevik, which is what we ultimately decided that she meant. Imagine, crossing the entire width of the political spectrum with one slip of un-knowledge. It was the hat and the beard that did it of course, with no thought at all to the message of the sign.

So by now, every one in the country has seen the homeless, or at least the beggars, standing on the street corner, or at the freeway off ramp with their signs. “Homeless, hungry. Will work for food. God Bless.” On and on, whatever they think is the proper message to get the most quarters out of the people who drive by in their cars, feeling guilty for having a job, having a home, having a life. I’m never tempted to give those people anything, the primary reason is that begging is their job. They stand on that corner for any number of hours a day, holding their sign, and maybe a coffee cup. They work at it. It’s their job. There are perks of course. I mean, they work outside, and they’re their own boss. They choose their own hours. My buddy Sky tells me that there are these two people who share a particular street corner in his neighborhood, taking turns holding the sign and the cup. They’ve worked out a job sharing arrangement. It’s their job.

So today, i walked off the job, and I grabbed my sign that’s been hanging on my desk for a couple of weeks now. We circled the upper floors a few times, hoping to generate some enthusiasm, but the people we saw weren’t walking. It got tiresome quickly, so we left, heading towards the local high school stadium for a rally.

Did they have Spirit Week rally’s for your high school football team when you went to school? This was just like that. Lots of repetitious chanting and booing and hissing at the appropriate targets at the appropriate times. “Who are we?” “SPEEA!” “Who are we?” “SPEEA!” “Who are we?” “SPEEA!” “Who are we?” “SPEEA!” How original. Or “We are Boeing!” “We are Boeing!” “We are Boeing!” Enlightening.

In any case, I didn’t actually go into and participate in the rally. I stood on the corner of the parking lot entrance, greeting the hundreds of people that were heading to the rally with my stupid little sign. I could always tell the people who are inured to looking at the homeless and their signs, because they noticed me there, and turned their heads and looked away. Those people weren’t any fun. But there were the ones who looked at me, read the sign, thought about it for a second, then burst out laughing. That made it all worthwhile. I mean, what I saw was a few thousand people who had the weight of the world on their shoulders. They were thinking about their jobs, their mortgages, how to feed the kids, their alimony payment, whatever. Then, for one brief shining moment, they saw my sign, and it made them laugh. A couple of thousand people saw my sign, and it brought a bit of levity into their lives. That made it all worthwhile…

And it paid too. I scored two McDonald’s apple pies, a few potato chips, and a couple of bucks in change in the coffee cup that I added to the mix. Of course, the cup made people think of the real homeless, and there were more people who turned their heads away, but the coins that I collected gave me a noise maker, and something to shake. It wasn’t anywhere near the hourly wage that I’m used to, but it was fun. Except for the peso that got dropped into the cup.

And the news media liked the message too. A camera guy for one of the local television stations filmed me standing there. I was on the noon news! And the local news radio station asked me to read my sign and explain what it meant. Obviously, a sign doesn’t pull much weight on the radio. After that, some people passed me and told me that they had heard me on the radio! That was fun too.

So here’s my little bit of dada theater. For what it’s worth, I hope that somebody who is breaking the strike will see me and my pathetic little sign, and think about why somebody like me might go out and give up what might be several weeks pay, just to send a message to the company that 4% is much better than 3%. And I hope that in the trying days to come, that some of those people who saw my sign will think back, and smile again, and stay out until the company and the union can agree on terms of what my labor is worth. Until then, I’m a very bored strikebreaker, sitting around the house, and making beer. Dark, almost black, and hoppy as all hell. Bleak and bitter beer maker, that’s me…

Copyright 2000 by Rich Webb, aka The Outsider.

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This document was last modified on 9 Feb, 2000, and has been viewed countless times.