By Melissa Bobrowicz
The only prerequisite was that wherever we went that day, it had to tie into the labor movement. I guess you could call it a union-themed date. He took interest in the fact that I worked on behalf of the movement. “Are there any Millennials supporting labor right now, I mean, at the meetings you go to?” and “It’s funny, because I almost feel like our generation doesn’t see a distinction between classes anymore.” and “Does our generation continue the labor movement, or do we simply evolve it?”
Good questions. And the answers would come, all in good time, but I figured the best place to start was to get him involved with a little social interaction. “This Saturday, it’s you, me, and everything that’s cool about unions,” I said.
I didn’t know much about Danny, except for a couple quirks we had in common: mutual love for dinosaurs (in any and all forms—we met by “Dakota” the triceratops at the Natural History Museum), and our respective Philosophy degrees from California’s largest labor friendly cities. He hailed from San Francisco, and I was proud to call Los Angeles my hometown. It was evident we were similarly curious and creative. Simply put, he seemed like someone that liked to think outside the box, and I knew from experience that most of the thinkers I’ve met are usually game to try anything once.
The loosely concocted plan involved patronizing exclusively union establishments in L.A. – giving the philosophy of “ethical consumerism” a run for its money on a sunny Saturday. Though really intrigued, I had never really given much thought to committing myself to the concept of “voting with one’s dollars.” The very idea of being able to enact meaningful social and economic change in my community by consciously choosing how I spent my money was admittedly empowering, if not difficult to contain, by virtue of its simplicity.
I thought it would be fun – and true to form – if I picked him up in my brother’s 2012 Ford Fusion. I didn’t say anything for a few minutes, waiting to see if he was sharp enough to pick up on the fact that the car was not just American, but union (UAW) made. To my pleasant surprise, not only did he notice, he took it up a notch himself. He didn’t just pack a lunch for the day in a plastic bag – he reached into the brightest green John Deere backpack I had ever seen, and flashed me what he deemed was “a homemade union sandwich” (made with Oscar Mayer meat and French’s mustard) and a six pack of Budweiser to share later. He had clearly done his homework. He then shrugged nonchalantly and said, “I figured you were probably sick of Pabst, since Los Angeles seems to brag about PBR more than the Teamsters do.” Two thoughts emerged: first, don’t tell him that touring the Anheuser-Busch plant is an option, and second, that backpack was incredibly cool.
We had been driving down the sunlit 101 South for exactly 20 minutes, and by this point the sheer volume of nostalgic, union-made references we were throwing at each other was becoming alarming. We started referencing union-made things one just couldn’t live without in L.A.: Chapstick, Coppertone sunblock, AT&T, BIC lighters, tires! It seemed as if we both were competing with one another as to who could plan the better, and cooler, union-themed date. The day was young, and we laughed as we considered aloud the multitude of absurd, yet logical possibilities. I could see us consulting Labor 411 to tour a list of the swankiest hotel bars, just to say we did. In another terrifying scenario, we’d momentarily forget we were in our late 20s and end up on Jurassic Park: The Ride at Universal Studios Hollywood. (In fact, the entire drive through Los Angeles, Danny would never let me forget that Universal Studios was affiliated with the labor movement UNITE HERE!)
I didn’t want to compete anymore! The boy seemed to always be a couple steps ahead of me. “Alright,” I said with an exasperated laugh, “You get to choose. You’re the guest, you’re visiting. Your pro-labor choices are as follows: a show at the Palladium, the Los Angeles Zoo, the Hollywood Bowl, or the Beverly Hilton, just to say we got a drink there.” I was overwhelmed and I didn’t want to have to choose. I wanted to see where this thought experiment took us. Before I had a chance to agonize over which of my options had appealed to him, Danny suddenly whipped out two crisp blue and white tickets he had stealthily procured before our meeting. Suddenly, I realized the game plan. “Come on,” he prodded, playfully nudging my temporarily stunned shoulder, “what’s more union than a Dodger dog?”