I never expected to be a TikTok star.
Nor, probably, did Karen Carlin, John Santa, Bob Batz Jr. and Alex McCann.
But when it became clear that no singing or dancing would be necessary to appear on the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO)’s TikTok account, we all decided it was time to let someone interview us for a change.
The question: Why are you on strike today?
“Because I want to show my son that it’s important to fight for what’s important to you,” said Santa, as he stood on the curb at North Shore Drive, where he was waving at passing cars to honk in support of a fair contract.
“I would rather work at a paper that has a union than a paper that doesn’t have a union,” said Carlin, a blue Newspaper Guild T-shirt peeking out from under her coat. “Nobody ever wants to strike, but sometimes you have to go to these extremes to be heard and to get what you deserve and what you’ve earned.”
Temperatures on the picket line Tuesday hovered in the low 40s, and rain periodically sputtered. The chill must have been evident on our faces, as multiple online commenters wrote, “Stay warm!”
The video gained traction online, where it spread not only on TikTok, but also on Twitter. Everyone from fellow Pittsburgh journalists to seemingly random, sometimes international, lurkers replied, liked and retweeted.
If you were to watch the video on the TikTok app, the algorithm would direct you to similar ones as soon as it ended. And though these other videos don’t feature striking Post-Gazette workers, they shared tips for striking workers, messages of solidarity and pro-union voices.
Pro-union content does well on the app, with its heavily Gen Z users — the generation is more pro-union than Millennials, Gen Xers and Baby Boomers.
On TikTok comments and in tweets, the solidarity came in the form of one ubiquitous symbol: the raised-first emoji.