On July 31, a small group of workers building a new UPS hub in Indianapolis were sent home by their boss. The workers were all Latino, and the boss, who was white–and according to the workers, racist–dismissed them on the grounds of disobeying orders. In response, the entire group of around 100 workers left the job site and shut down operations for the day.
Antoine Dangerfield, a 30-year-old welder working on the same site but under a different contractor than the workers who walked out, captured the events in a video (with some strong language) that has since gone viral. In it, he’s rolling around the job site in a vehicle, narrating as the workers unite and decide to strike. “They sent a couple of them home, and they all packed that shit up and shut this motherfucker down,” Dangerfield says. “I swear to god, I love this shit!”
Dangerfield’s enthusiasm only grew as he watched the workers leave the site. “They [the bosses] thought they was gonna play with these amigos, and they said, ‘aw yeah, we rise together, homie.’ And they leaving! And they not bullshitting!”
After the workers leave, Dangerfield comes back on the scene to find an empty site. “Ain’t no grinding, cutting, welding–this motherfucker dead-ass quiet. The Mexicans shut this motherfucker down.”
In an interview with Jacobin, Dangerfield described what he saw happen as “life-changing.” Though he got fired for posting the video (after his contractor boss tried to pay him $250 to take it down), what affected him was seeing the demonstration of worker power unfold and shut down an entire job site. “I just felt that power, man. It just felt good,” he told Jacobin. “They were walking out with their heads up, strong. It touched me. That’s why I was like, wow, this is beautiful. It was beautiful that they came together like that–stood up for themselves and not let that dude walk all over them.”
By the time Dangerfield’s boss offered him money to take down the video, it had 1.1 million views of Facebook; it’s doubled that by now. Nearly 800,000 have watched it on YouTube. Many of the comments echo Dangerfield’s enthusiasm for seeing workers band together in the face of mistreatment by their higher-ups.
What’s significant about what happened at the UPS hub site in Indianapolis is that the workers who walked off were not unionized, and as such did not have the protection of a larger organization to back up their action. As unions have waned in strength across the U.S., it’s often unclear how workers are able to advocate for themselves on job sites and in environments where the balance of power is so clearly tipped against them. The workers who walked off the floor in Indianapolis are an example of how it’s done. As wages and worker protections continue to stagnate, businesses should be prepared to see more and more worker action, even if their workforces aren’t unionized.
What stuck with Dangerfield was how proud the workers were for banding together. And management, he said, still paid everyone on the site for the day. “That’s how you know they were wrong,” he says.
Update: There is now a GoFundMe set up to support Dangerfield after he lost his job over posting the video.