The recent United Auto Worker's strike against General Motors reminded me of my strike experience at the Chrysler plant south of Saint Louis, where I worked in the 1980s.
I wasn't on the line. I worked for a third party vendor and taught computer classes to the union workers. One day, the third party vendor company called from their base in Detroit and said they had heard there was a strong possibility there would be a strike at the plant next week, and our field office needed to prepare.
I had heard all the strike rumblings, so I knew the strike might happen, but I thought it would be like the teachers' strike I had almost participated in. I was expecting a day or two in which I would wake up, check the news, and not go in to work that day.
They explained that not only would we not go in to work, or cross any picket lines, we would be packing up the company office computer hardware and vacating the premises as soon as the strike began. Not that afternoon, not that hour: the moment it began. We had to be seen walking out in solidarity with the union.
The strike was scheduled to begin at the noon shift change, and we knew we couldn't get all the hardware out to our cars in one trip. So, we made several forays to load up our cars, and that meant walking across the plant floor. Let me just say, a car plant preparing for a strike is not like a teacher's union preparing for a strike. What started as grumblings and intermittent whoops at eleven a.m. escalated into a full on fuck-you-Chrysler chorus in the minutes right before noon.
Then the shift change bell rang and everyone roared -- not like it was the last day of school, but more like the roar of an attacking army. We had been told to march right to our cars and leave as quickly as possible, and we did, looking straight ahead.
After that alarming start, the strike was fairly dull. I worked on the company PC at home, and then after a week Chrysler and the union reached an agreement. But, still, pretty exciting at the time.