Friday, July 28, 2017

Shop floor realities; yes, there's always been a black working class

The Farm Manager has been watching the doc "13th" all afternoon on Netflix, while I was putting way too much effort into the previous blog-post.

(What? Unfettered capitalism immiserates the working class? Who knew?...)

Anyway, she's watching it and I'm hearing the soundtrack, and from time to time I have to add a "PS."

At some point, I offered "PS, there used to be a black working class."

Which got me going down memory lane...

Back when I dropped out of high-school, the highest paying gig around for high-school drop-outs was Budd Automotive a fifteen minute drive away in Kitchener. Before that I'd toiled at Dayton Steel, which was just a very short step up from the bottom of the ladder.

The very bottom at the time belonged to Frank Hassenfratz's Linamar Machine out near Ariss.

Mind you, a lot of those high-school drop-outs at Frank's place got the last laugh. When Linamar was going public Frank had offered the old hands pre-IPO shares, and there were high-school drop-outs who had taken a job at the very bottom of the high-school drop-out employment ladder who are millionaires today thanks to that.

Anyway, I successfully dodged that bullet, and found myself at the apex of the employment ladder. I'd applied there before, and was rebuffed due to my age. UAW rules demanded that a new hire be at least eighteen years of age. So on my 18th birthday, I stood in line at the Budd hiring office again, amongst all manner of Jamaicans and Poles and Bulgarians and plain old working class Canadians.

Point being, you couldn't lift your eyes without seeing a black dude on the shop floor. Ergo, there WAS a black working class.

Not only that, but the Jamaicans were absolutely great guys and, not that I want to indulge stereotypes, always had a line on way-above-average weed.

Lot's of black guys on the shop floor when I worked at Frankel Steel too. Frankel was one of the biggest structural steel fab shops in Canada at the time, and it was a well-paying gig. The black guys and the white guys bought homes in the same middle class neighbourhoods and we felt the same sting when we were handed our lay-off notices.

Out in New Brunswick, at Irving's Shipyard, I worked alongside black dudes who could trace their family tree back to the days of the Loyalists that you heard about in history class. There was two hundred years of black working-class culture in New Brunswick!

Anyway, if you listen to the news today, you hear quite a lot about the white working class.

The black working class seems to have disappeared from the news.

There's a lot of realities about the lives of ordinary black folks that seem to have disappeared from mainstream consciousness. That's why I think, going by what I heard, that watching 13th would be a good way to spend an afternoon.

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