To Antoine Dangerfield, it was just a small two-minute video.
“They are not bullshitting!” He says, his camera panning around a factory floor as his coworkers left for the day. An impromptu strike was going down, as a group of Latino construction workers walked off the job after a safety coordinator tried to fire their co-workers on the spot.
“They thought they was gonna play with these amigos, and they said, ‘aw yeah, we rise together, homie,’” Dangerfield says, his voice brimming with delight. “And they leaving!”
The video went viral last Tuesday morning—within hours of him posting it—and Dangerfield made headlines. His enthusiastic commentary as the workers left en masse earned him fans and supporters from around the world, he says, with people from China, Mexico, Portugal offering words of encouragement and solidarity over the wildcat strike at the UPS superhub construction site.
But some commenters—in articles written about him and on social media—wondered where the solidarity was for Dangerfield, who says he lost his job as a result of the viral video. Where was the walkout for him, they wondered?
As Dangerfield told The Root, he neither expects nor wants people to protest his firing. And in fact, the way he was let go made it difficult for such a demonstration to happen.
That’s because Dangerfield was fired via a text message sent last Wednesday afternoon, away from the shop floor and away from the eyes of his coworkers.
Dangerfield shared a screenshot of the message with The Root, in which a recruiter for a construction contractor informs him, “they’re not gonna need you at the job site anymore.” The recruiter also told him the rest of his paychecks and pay stubs would be sent to his home address.
“I already picked up my check,” said Dangerfield. “They were like ‘Why did you go back there?’ and I was like, man, rent due today. What am I supposed to do?”
While the message doesn’t specifically cite the video Dangerfield posted, he says he later received a call from the owner of the contracting company. The owner offered $250 added to Dangerfield’s last paycheck if the video was taken down, and explained that he “could possibly lose out his UPS bid,” Dangerfield said.
“I was like bro, this is one million views. There’s nothing I could do about this video,” Dangerfield said. “And I’m not taking it down, anyway, so whatever. What, you gonna re-fire me or something? I’m already out of a job, ain’t nothing much more you can really do.”
But there was confusion at work about whether he was still employed, with his coworkers being told Dangerfield could have returned to the site on Thursday if he chose to.
“Really, [the company] was trying to play it like they didn’t fire me,” he said. “[The other workers] were wondering why I didn’t come back to work because the bosses are trying to spin it like I could have come back.”
“Now they got my picture posted up in there saying I’m not allowed on the job site,” he added.
Dangerfield added that he doesn’t necessarily want his former co-workers to protest.
“I didn’t want to lose my job, so I definitely don’t want nobody else to lose their job from no protest,” he said. “Everybody got family, you know? I don’t want nothing like that.”
The 30-year-old welder declined to name the company or the people involved in his firing. Not only is he afraid of the legal repercussions, but he felt that naming his former employer would be akin to “[dragging] people through the mud”—which would run counter to the original message of unity he wants to spread.
Matthew O’Connor, a senior manager of public relations for UPS, told The Root that the company was not involved in the walkout or Dangerfield’s firing.
“The incident occurred with a vendor,” UPS said.
Since being fired, a GoFundMe was created for Dangerfield, whose son turned 9 on Tuesday. Dangerfield told Jacobin magazine that he left a job in California and took the Indianapolis one so he could be closer to his son.
In just four days, donors have raised close to $40,000 for Dangerfield. Now that rent’s settled and his son’s birthday has passed, he’s wondering how to pay their kindness forward.
“It’s so much money,” he said. “I reached out to a food truck dude. Maybe I can just buy a whole bunch of food for the homeless ... coordinate some hygiene kits for people or something.”
People from around the country have also offered him work, but Dangerfield has had trouble keeping up with the outpouring of messages. He said he’d prefer to stay local so he can help his son prep for school in the fall.
Although it cost him his job, Dangerfield stands by the video he shot and wants people to remember his intended message—one of unity and possibility. That’s what the experience of the wildcat strike—and the ensuing reaction to his video—has taught him.
“Let’s get rid of the borders and really come together,” he said. “We got all these imaginary lines, you know what I mean? That’s all it is, really. Imaginary lines that somebody just put in place.
“Some people don’t feel like they can do it. Some people feel like the corporations are running the world and they gotta bow down and conform, or just deal with whatever environment or conditions that they working in,” he said.
But the two-minute video he took meant people could make a stand and possibly change their situation, he says. He believes this is why it meant so much to other people, and to him.
“The whole sense of it was powerful,” he said. “If you was there, you felt the power. How they was walking out with their head up.”
Dangerfield hopes his experience sets an example for the future.
“I’m almost about to frame this or something,” he said about the articles that have been written about him.
“Give it to my grandkids. I’m feeling like Antoine Mandela or something out here,” he adding, his infectious laughter filling the air.