Manufacture This

The blog of the Alliance for American Manufacturing

Stars like Sean Combs and Tom Morello helped judge UAW's song and video contest.

Autoworker Ryan Adkins was walking through the Fiat Chrysler America (FCA) Jefferson North Assembly Plant in Detroit this past April when he spotted a flyer promoting a contest for the United Auto Workers (UAW) BuildBuyUSA campaign.

Ryan Adkins

The flyer was a call for all artists, rappers, singers, poets and tech-savvy workers to enter a contest by creating an original video promoting American manufacturing.

The invitation piqued Adkins’ interest, since he had briefly attempted a music career after graduating high school.

Adkins relinquished his musical interests to more of a hobby since then. These days, he works full-time as a quality inspector at the stalwart Chrysler auto plant, a job he’s held for eight years.

The 30-year-old married father of a 4-year-old son — and member of UAW Local 7 — realized a well-paying job with generous benefits was the right thing to do for his family. He owns a home in Warren, Mich., just off Eight Mile Road, the city limits boundary rapper Eminem made famous in the film "8 Mile."

So, it should be no surprise that Adkins video contained rap lyrics set to the visuals of a gritty, resurgent downtown Detroit.

The contest awarded four prize winners in all and Adkins took first place – and a $5,000 cash prize – for the People’s Choice Award.

“This song combines my passion for music with my core belief that we need to buy goods that are union-made and Made in the U.S.A.,” Adkins said. “It’s personal to me because I have a family and I want the next generation to thrive and have opportunities.”

Among the judges were hip-hop artist and entrepreneur Sean Combs; Grammy-award winning musician, worker advocate, and Rage Against the Machine guitarist Tom Morello; actor Ashton Kutcher; songwriter Dan Navarro; and Emmy-nominated cinematographer Michael Goi.

Adkins’ video is titled “Build It Buy It (in the USA).” And he’s not just talking about the American-made Grand Cherokees built at the historic Chrysler plant.

“I try to buy Made in America products as much as I can,” Adkins said. “You want to try to get it Made in the USA because you don’t know the quality and ingredients in some of these imported products.

“I went to the contest website and it said the contest is inspired by the old song ‘Look for the Union Label,’ and I thought that was straight to the point. We want people to know what Made in the USA is all about, so that was my idea for the lyrics.”

The United States has lost more than 5 million manufacturing jobs since 2000, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The focus of the contest was delivering the message that when we make products in America, we also help local communities thrive.

“This contest touched a nerve,” said UAW International President Dennis Williams after the winners were announced on June 1. “Americans know that domestic manufacturing is the key to strengthening American communities and all of the winning videos deliver that message with creativity, power and emotion.”

After the initial influx of entries was narrowed down to the most creative videos, those that made the cut were sent to the panel of worker-friendly judges, who volunteered their time to further the Made in America cause.

“This song combines my passion for music with my core belief that we need to buy goods that are union-made and Made in the U.S.A. It’s personal to me because I have a family and I want the next generation to thrive and have opportunities.” Ryan Adkins

For Adkins, writing and recording the song for his video was the easy part. Filming a video that captured the American-made spirit proved a bit more challenging.

“Me, my wife and son went to downtown Detroit,” Adkins said. “We always go downtown on my days off because there is a resurgence down there right now with a lot of new businesses. Now everyone wants to go downtown.”

Adkins likes what he sees in the changing landscape of a struggling Detroit, which in the 1960s was one of America’s preeminent industrial cities. The auto and steel industries provided hundreds of thousands of quality jobs before imports put the brakes on a booming Motown.

“I see the city with businesses and investors all coming back to Detroit and I’m sure that is going to impact manufacturing in Detroit,” Adkins said. “My dad always worked for Chrysler and he was off work only one time when they had a strike, so to me, Chrysler, Ford and GM have always been doing positive stuff here. They now have made choices to move Mexican production back to the U.S. because it is not as cost effective as it was before these different trade agreements.”

As far as making the video for his contest winning entry, Adkins improvised in the same way Detroit has done since coming out of the largest ever American municipal bankruptcy in 2014.

“There was no budget for this video and I didn’t want to bring my big camera, so I was using my phone, which is old, and the battery died during filming on Detroit’s People Mover,” Adkins said. “I really didn’t know what I had until I got home and was able to upload the video on to my computer.

“I did finish my associates degree in media communications arts and digital video production so that helped with making the video. I kind of wanted to show this is the Motor City. I wanted to show the city. Imagine if all this was American-made. This is where we live. If we are buying products that are coming from the community this is what we can get out of it.”

Enjoy the beat, but listen to the lyrics. The message is that American workers can thrive again by taking pride in products made in America and the well-paying, benefit-friendly jobs American manufacturers can provide.

Build It Buy It (in the USA)

Music and lyrics Ryan Adkins

Our mission is about our future,

It’s about the big picture a real heavy hitter,

Bringing back well-paying and sustainable,

Manufacturing jobs that we want available,

Through the power of the consumer,

We can reward employers,

Who respect the worker’s rights,

And the environment,

And start applying it to science and local governments,

And that’s why I'm part of the union,

Build it buy it USA don't confuse it,

We can have the future we want, 

Our actions, our choices, it’s that simple.

Build it, Buy it, In the USA

Build it, Buy it, In the USA

Making products in the USA means good jobs for our communities,

A strong economy,

I don’t want a foreign monopoly, 

Or dilapidated properties surrounding me and mocking me,

Cuz investing in companies that invest in the US are usually the best bet,

They always pass the test,

Yes! American made means quality safety and durability, 

UNION got the ability,

Increasing the profitability of your city,

To create new jobs, new dreams and possibilities,

Inspiring the next generation, for motivation, and participation,

No hesitation,

We can have the future we want, 

Our actions, our choices, it’s that simple.

Build it, Buy it, In the USA

Build it, Buy it, In the USA

Build it, Buy it, In the USA

Build it, Buy it, In the USA