the UAW killed my daddy…by Karl Koweski

two days before the union vote
Hydra CEO, Dick Whitaker,
drove his BMW roadster
down from the corporate offices
in a last ditch effort to avert
a UAW victory

as the third shifters leaned back
in their folding chairs,
perpetually tired and
ready to just get it all over with,
Whitaker stepped in front of the assembly
and loosened his tie for a third time.
a calculated move
as though by easing the ligature
around his neck
was all it took to gain the confidence
of a roomful of machinists
who’d had their wages frozen
the last two years
and their benefits chipped away
to nothing

for the third time
at this third meeting
Whitaker allowed his eyes to mist
and his voice crack with emotion
when he announced
the union killed his father
with the cold certainty
of a bullet to the heart

to hear Whitaker tell it,
his daddy was the best damn paint mixer
DuPont Industries had ever seen.
he could match paint
with a precision
no computer could compete with.
when DuPont went union
it nearly broke his daddy’s heart.
with the union promises of
competitive wages, retirement program,
and employee rights,
his daddy knew his time at the
factory was numbered.

and he was right.
four years later, DuPont decided
they no longer needed his expertise.
however, considering his time invested,
they were willing to offer him
a position at a DuPont plant
located clear across the country.

clear across the country,
Whitaker repeated.
my daddy lived his entire life in Iowa,
except for his time serving
our country in the Air Force.
the decision to leave the only place
he’d ever really known
tormented my daddy.
it ate him up, made it so
he could hardly sleep at night.

here, Whitaker turned away from the assembly,
dabbing at his dusty, reptilian eyes.
after a reasonable amount of silence
and two shoulder hitches,
he faced the machinists.

the last time I saw my daddy,
at the Kinnick stadium
where I was a starting cornerback
for the Hawkeyes,
I barely recognized him,
so great the toll the union took on him.
his… his… heart… gave out on him
at the end of the third quarter
of that game.
now, I have no doubt in my mind
the union was responsible for his death.
after the union came into DuPont,
my daddy was never the same man.

now, I’m not going to tell you how to vote.
I only ask that you think of your children
and what kind of effect
a union shop will have on them.

the workers glanced at each other
with equally dazed what-the-fuck expressions.
finally Roger the raised his hand
and stood up, nervously addressing
his boss and co-workers.

I feel for your loss, Mr. Whitaker.
I, too, lost my father to the unions.

Whitaker tightened his lips in sympathy,
or maybe to kill the creeping smile.

my father, Roger continued, was at a bar
when a teamster mistook him for the guy
who pissed on his camaro and
punched him in the face.
two years later, my daddy died of
pancreatic cancer.


3 Responses to “the UAW killed my daddy…by Karl Koweski”

  1. rossvassilev Says:

    well look who’s become a long-haired hippie!

  2. Awesome poem.

  3. Melissa Says:

    In Solidarity

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