I was born and raised in a working-class family in Chickasaw, Alabama, a small shipbuilding company town just outside of the port hub of Mobile.
My father dropped out of school before the ninth grade and immediately went to work as a sandblaster at a naval shipyard. My mother worked several odd jobs throughout her life, notably as a textile factory worker, a waitress at the Waffle House, and a cashier at Wal-Mart.
Then there was my grandfather. He worked 41 years at the International Paper Company and was a life long member of the United Paperworkers International Union.
One of my fondest childhood memories was staying over at my grandparents’ house on the weekend. Or, as I lovingly called them, Memaw and Papaw. I remember wearing Papaw’s over sized ‘Proud to be Union’ t-shirt as we stayed up late together eating popcorn and watching reruns of Matlock.