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Fighting for dignity, respect, and a livable wage. Bettie Douglas, age 63. | Al Neal

The rank and file workers that came before us said a union was not the union hall nor the labor temple, nor was it the elected union officials that come and go. The union was its people — the honest, hardworking membership.

Comrades of sweat and toil pushed and prodded too far for the sake of an industrial tyrant’s profits. Workers who reached a point and said, “enough is enough,” who joined together, demanded change, and organized.


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“We poor, We Angry” is spray-painted on the side stairwell walkway. Four words speaking honestly and powerfully. | Al Neal

ST. LOUIS — The night before last was filled with tumultuous, wholly justified, demonstrations against racism and the murder of another Black man by law enforcement; it ended with the eruption of flames and gunfire — accompanying similar scenes nationwide.

It is the morning after. The smell of tear gas, damp wood, gun powder, and chemical fire retardant still lingers in the air. Before us lies a burnt out 7–11 convenience store. Some would say its image is a representation of property destruction, which of course it is, but it’s something much bigger and more important. …


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A window view of work. | Al Neal

There is something unnaturally innate about our obsession with the construction and destruction of all human-made things.


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A. Neal

They speak with their eyes. Who are they? The average service sector worker, trying their best to stay calm, to stay strong, and, above all, to keep living during a time of global crisis.

Their inner strength and resolve are beautiful, an inspiring example of humanity. But it is their eyes that betray them. In them, you will find a guarded truth: They’re afraid and concerned about what tomorrow will bring.

“What are we supposed to do? Stop working, stop paying bills?” said Brandon, his bravado in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic contradicted by his heavy, dropping eyelids. …


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A. Neal

The mood is uneasy. The streets are quiet and show their pain through the paint chipped curbs, cracked sidewalks, and boarded alleyway doors — there’s no foot traffic. Crowds no longer gather to hide the city’s worn-down façade.

Off in the distance, church bells ring. No one is listening. And soon it will be overtaken by the sounds of emergency vehicle sirens dashing off to care for troubled souls during troubled times.

This is a new reality. It’s the reality of life lived from a distance — at least six to 12 feet apart.


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A. Neal

Time and time again, the American public will find itself standing completely still, eyes unblinking, and affixed to television screens; bewildered by the latest global crisis encroaching our borders.

We’ve grown accustomed to crisis; we are thrilled by its prospects of danger and adventure; for some, it is a tangible means to a political end; for others, it creates profit.

Echoes from the past: “Build the wall…build the wall…” Ah, welcome back prejudice — our dearest friend.

Today, amid the crisis of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), America has regressed.

Misinformation and fear have led to a rise in anti-Asian discrimination…


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(A. Neal)

The modern-day tourist is a curious creature.

Where travel was once seen as the appropriate time and place to shed all traces of professionalism — to unmask and take part in frivolous mischief, the vacationing tourist now obsesses over all the travel particulars in search of aesthetic perfection.

Beauty should not be the product of forceful design; beauty is found in the natural — the unplanned captured moments documenting life as it is, not what it could be. Vacation photographs today, or rather, the digitally embellished images shared widely, serve only one purpose: convincing representation of the “real.”

Still images…


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Untitled. November 20, 2019. (A. Neal)

It is an unfortunate truth: The world is filled with far too many fatherless sons and daughters.

I joined this litany of lonely voices at an early age. And although I eventually had a stepfather, it only took a few decades before I became fatherless once again.

Everything our family knew changed suddenly about six-months ago. My stepfather’s unexpected stroke, early one Saturday morning, ended the peace and stability we’d created.

There were two strokes. Each one obliterated parts of his left brain — the analytical center. …


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Al Pacino as Teamsters President Jimmy Hoffa in “The Irishman.” | Netflix

Frank Sheeran (Robert DeNiro) wanted to be respected. After all, who here doesn’t want that in some form? Legacies are born of it, along with resentment and bouts of regret.

Much like Sheeran, my father grew up during the post-war boom (the height of union membership), and after high school, he got a factory job, worked hard, and earned an honest living.

As a child, I vividly remember conversations around the dinner table where ideals such as “respect,” “solidarity,” and “duty” were synonymous with our family’s civic responsibilities and union membership — specifically, membership in the Teamsters.

Usually, the conversation…


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UAW members countdown their last hour on the strike line, walking back and forth, encouraging drivers to honk in solidarity as they drive by. Al Neal/PW

The Holy Spirit of Solidarity compelled Jake, a 43-year UAW member, and General Motors worker, to go out onto the picket line. Well, that, and his upcoming retirement on Jan. 1, 2020.

Al Neal

Just a quiet observer. Portfolio: www.al-neal.com

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