Construction workers building UPS super-hub in Indianapolis walk off job

By Adam Mclean
6 August 2018

A video of a wildcat walkout by construction workers building a new UPS super-hub in Indianapolis went viral after its posting last Tuesday. In a testament to the growing radicalization and dissatisfaction of the working class it has been shared almost 100,000 times and has received about 3 million views on Facebook at the time of this writing.

Antoine Dangerfield, a contracted welder who shot the video, was fired shortly after publishing it. UPS and representatives from the construction contractor reportedly offered him $250 to take it down, an offer that he refused.

Video of workers walking off UPS construction site (Warning: strong language)

The workers were predominantly Hispanic and, according to Dangerfield, walked out because of the actions of a racist supervisor who he said would photograph and record workers. According to Dangerfield, workers would warn each other whenever he approached. After a confrontation in which some workers refused to translate at a safety meeting, he fired several people, prompting the remaining workers to walk out.

In an attempt to contain anger and minimize the significance of what happened, the construction contractor fired the supervisor. Conversely, Dangerfield, who did little more than film the event, also lost his job.

This walkout occurred despite the attacks by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), still fresh in workers’ memory, and the xenophobia being promoted up by the ruling class internationally.

In June, ICE staged raids on an Ohio meatpacking plant as part of an attempt to terrorize the immigrant population and intimidate the working class more broadly, seeking to whip up an atmosphere of xenophobia. ICE agents armed to the teeth pulled workers out of the plant, separated native-born and immigrant workers, and arrested those who were unable to provide papers.

The sharing of the walkout video comes in spite of efforts by the ruling class to censor the internet. The actions of the major tech companies in the service of the state to suppress internet content raise the question, in particular: Have there have been other similar events that may have been blocked from widespread sharing, either through the actions of human censors or algorithms of Facebook and Google that automatically or semi-automatically perform the same function?

While left-wing, socialist and anti-war websites have been the primary target of internet censorship, with the WSWS at the top of the list, it is highly likely that censorship is also being carried out against left-wing material created by individuals who themselves may not be part of any political organization. During the teachers’ strikes this year, the unions and their front groups censored critical posts by teachers opposed to the sabotage of their struggle by the unions.

The walkout by construction workers in Indianapolis is a further indication of a broader resurgence of class struggle. This year has seen a wave of teachers’ strikes, which for a moment were able to break free from the stranglehold of the unions.

Last month, a quarter million UPS workers voted massively for strike authorization and are expressing overwhelmingly opposition to the sellout contract promoted by the Teamsters union, which would create new class of “hybrid” drivers earning less than regular UPS drivers.

Just 60 miles north of Indianapolis, over 6,000 Fiat Chrysler autoworkers have voted overwhelmingly for strike authorization over hundreds of accumulated grievances.

While the immediate cause of the Indianapolis walkout may have been the actions of a racist supervisor, there are broader social questions involved. Social relations in the US are at a boiling point over a whole host of questions ranging from access to quality healthcare, education, the right to a decent standard of living and freedom from living in fear of police thuggery, deportation, and war.

It is these same basic class forces which have pitted a quarter-million UPS workers, whose contracts expired on August 1, against the Teamsters. Rather than making any effort to unify disparate sections of the working class who are increasingly coming into struggle, the Teamsters are attempting to shove a concessions contract down the throats of UPS workers on behalf of the company. The Teamsters have had nothing to say about the Indianapolis walkout, let alone make any calls for the unity of the working class.

Workers everywhere are more and more demonstrating a readiness to take up a fight against existing conditions, but the unions, in an alliance with the Democratic Party, have done everything in their power to prevent any mobilization of the working class. Although workers have voted over 80 or 90 percent to call for strikes, this determination to fight finds no expression in the actions of the unions. Instead they push sellout contracts and promote right-wing big-business politicians. It is noteworthy that the Indianapolis construction workers did not have a union. It would have been much more difficult to stage a walkout if they did, as they would find themselves in opposition to both the company and the union apparatus.

The Socialist Equality Party calls for the building of rank-and-file committees among all sections of the working class. One of the first tasks of these committees would be to reach out to all sections of the working class, immigrant and native-born as well as workers internationally, to unify in a common struggle for their basic interests. We urge workers interested in this perspective to make contact with the WSWS. We will assist however possible in the building of rank-and-file committees.