To See Each Other


Dan Alexander's Story

Dan Alexander is a Bloomington, Ind.-based Hoosier Action leader and second generation worker at the Bedford GM plant and UAW member, who focuses on union efforts and small town factory workers.

I'm originally from upstate New York, about six minutes from the Canadian border. My parents live in Bedford and now I live in Bloomington. 

We moved to Bedford in 1987. Everybody was nice, but it was a little strange. The East Coast and Midwest mentalities were different. It’s very wholesome, very religious here. I come from a Catholic background, and when we moved here, we were in the minority. That was probably the biggest shock.

My mother was born on an Indian reservation. My grandmother, my mom—I’m Native American. When I moved here, I thought, well, we're going to Indiana. Where are the Native Americans? The first time we came through, I saw a sign on the on the road that said “Monroe Res,” and I was like, oh, there's a reservation. And my dad was like, no, that's the reservoir. That’s a lake.

My dad was was a tool- and die-maker for General Motors. The plant where he worked closed, and one day he came home and said, I have to make a decision that you guys probably aren't gonna like, but we have to move within the next two weeks. We were kids. My dad moved with my brother to Indiana, and we stayed on the reservation with my grandmother for seven months, I believe, until he could afford to come back and collect everything and bring us to Indiana.

Bedford is a very rural small town, but I went to a big high school. A lot of middle schools feed in there. We moved right in the middle of the Damon Bailey craze, Hoosier hysteria. I’d never even been to major school sporting events, and it was the biggest thing I’d ever seen. So many people watching a high school game just blew my mind.

My dad was a union member, and my brother and I are too. We were told from a young age that this is how someone who doesn’t have a college education can put four kids through college. That’s not so common these days. I work at an aluminum foundry. We do diecast work, transmission cases, stuff like that. 

I was introduced to Hoosier Action when we were in the middle of a lengthy strike last year. A friend referred me to Kate, and I was impressed—they went into action quickly, they donated $1,500 worth of dry goods to the union, donated into our food pantry. It was an outpouring of kindness in a time when we weren’t sure if people were on board with what we were trying to do. That made an impact on me.

Some people seem to think that unions are out for themselves, and that’s not really the case. We were on strike for several reasons. Insurance was on the table, and we were trying to get permanent employment for temporary workers. They’re working alongside us, doing the same job, it’s only fair to make sure that they were getting brought up like we did. The whole point of a labor union is to make sure everybody’s getting a fair shake.

When the pandemic started, we went on a temporary layoff, and I wanted to do something positive with my time. You know, if you see somebody that needs a hand up, and you give it to them, you get a lot in return. It gives you a different perspective. So I saw an opportunity with Hoosier Action and decided I wanted to get involved. Right now we’re discussing helping our neighbors work out their unemployment. Find food. People are looking at getting evicted, so we’re working toward solutions for that.

It's been hard to change minds. These old systems seem to not be working these days, and I think we need to consider what other people are doing—other towns, other counties, other states, other countries. You have to see what’s working and try to assimilate it. I mean, it’s going to take a lot of people getting on the same page, and it’s difficult. It’s a weird climate right now. Very divisive.

At Hoosier Action, we’re nonpartisan. We don’t want to exclude. We want everyone to know, hey, it’s not just for this political party or this demographic. Coronavirus doesn’t discriminate. It’ll take anyone. You might have a different opinion than I do, but when you lose a loved one, I feel bad. And I would hope you’d feel the same for me. That’s just empathy. Compassion.

Somebody once made a comment I like to remember: Who would you trust to take you to the hospital if you were injured or your life was threatened? Of course I would take someone who had a different political viewpoint. You’ve got to be able to trust your neighbor. Even if he doesn’t feel the same way you do, we’re a community.

I’m finding a lot of people are wanting to talk. They want somebody to listen to them. At any other time, people might be saying, I’m fine. Leave me alone. But people are worried. It’s uncertain times. People want to know that their needs are at least being listened to.

I try to be optimistic. I think a lot of people are just scared. You need to know that there are ways you can participate in trying to help solve the problem. Everybody can do something. You don't have to solve everything overnight; obviously, nobody can. Just do your part and help out. And then if you get enough people together, that's a huge impact. Everyone can get involved in some capacity, even if it's the smallest thing. You know, checking on a friend making sure that they're okay, if they're cooped up, calling them, talking to them. Right now, we need to be making sure that people feel like they're not forgotten. 

All these Hoosiers–George included–testify to how when we see when we see each other, we strengthen our communities together. And we win.


The groundbreaking organizing work featured in To See Each Other is reaching millions of voters and reshaping politics in communities across the country–and we need you to join us.

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