Monday, September 6, 2021

From The Vault: Labor Day Memories

stilton’s place, stilton, political, humor, conservative, cartoons, jokes, hope n’ change, ford, steering columns, unions, uaw, indianapolis, labor day

Today is Labor Day, a national holiday on which we celebrate the labor unions which have improved working conditions and pay so dramatically that the actual jobs now go to illegal aliens, because that's the only way for many manufacturers to keep from going out of business.

Not that it's my intention to bash unions today! Over the years, they've accomplished many positive things and put an end to some horrific working conditions. If you doubt us, try looking up some vintage photos of 8-year old coal miners and then try to get their eyes and faces out of your nightmares.

That being said, my personal experience of working in a union shop left me with a highly negative attitude. It was in the early 1970's, and I had to join the United Auto Workers to work at a Ford factory in Indianapolis, Indiana. It was a summer job to earn college money, and I was moved around from position to position in the factory to cover for vacationing employees.

My first position was a night shift driving a forklift. The work was simple enough - transporting pallets of materials from one place to another. The problem was that there wasn't nearly enough work to fill the hours. When I asked the foreman what I should be doing to put in 8 hours of productivity, I was A) glared at for being a college-boy asshole and B) told that I should find a place to hide and sleep through the shift like everyone else did.

It seems the other forklift drivers did all of their work in the first hour, then retreated to hideaways inside stacks of boxes where there were makeshift beds, Playboy pinups, and the all-important alarm clocks which told my fellow workers that it was time to wake up and go home. My Protestant work ethic wouldn't allow me to do this (not to mention my fear of being crushed by falling stacks of crates "accidentally" tipped by my coworkers) so I was soon moved to daytime work on the assembly line.

This particular assembly line was for building steering columns. Every nine seconds, a unit would roll slowly by and I'd perform one quick operation on it...then move on to the next and the next and the next. There was nothing challenging about getting my contribution done in nine seconds (the union had established that this was exactly the maximum amount of work a laborer could do)...but I soon learned there was a complication.

Every man on the line not only knew how to do his own job, but also his neighbor's job within that nine second window (and without breaking a sweat). And so one man would come in every morning, punch in for himself and the second worker (who was still at home in bed) and do both jobs until lunchtime. Then the second man came in and the first man left for the day - with both time cards punched out at the end of the shift. Management knew this, but didn't dare challenge the union.

The "half day, full pay" scam eventually reached its logical conclusion when two geniuses sharing job duties figured out that neither of them would have to come in if they simply had a third guy punching their time cards in and out. And that's what they did for a long time.

And it worked out great until people driving Fords started dying because their cars suddenly veered out of control owing to the missing part in the steering column.

A massive recall followed, millions of dollars were paid in liability settlements and, of course, the two workers who were to blame were fired.


Yes, the UAW got them their jobs back. So fire up your grills, have a great Labor Day and  for the love of all that's holy drive carefully.



JustaJeepGuy said...

You've got to admit, Al Sharpton has certainly achieved something many people can't: he's lost a tremendous amount of weight, and improved his appearance a lot with his choice of attire lately. He's still a race hustler, but he's a sharp-dressed race hustler now.

Mike aka Proof said...

My company provided service for some of the equipment in a Ford plant in Michigan. Of course, the Union guys couldn't work if the machinery wasn't operational. Some of my service guys would observe them damaging the machinery, or removing parts and hiding them, so they 'couldn't work'.

Jim Horn said...

Your union story sounds like my experience with the American Steelworkers Union in 1974 at the (since defunct) Danley Machine Corporation making huge industrial presses.

Popular Front said...

Stilton, you have described - exactly - what killed the Australian vehicle industry.
Admittedly our Holdens were a GM product, as were or Fords, not to mention our Chryslers back in the day (I'm a HUGE Mopar man) before they sold out to Mitsubishi but the fact was those cars were Australian, for Australian buyers (and racers).

Unions killed our industry off with venal and grotesque wage demands and working conditions. Dickhead employees could not be fired, they were taken off the line and turned into union reps. Strikes were called on the flimsiest of pretexts and any dissenters were usually beaten within an inch of their lives. You know the story.

The amount of moaning, chest beating and hairshirt wearing from the unions when both GM & Ford announced from Detroit that manufacturing would cease in Australia was a classic example of industrial 'derrr...'. Big decisions like those aren't made overnight, they are made after big teams of analysts look at every aspect; ten years study? It is very interesting to note however that now it is a lot easier and not to mention cheaper to buy big Yank pickup trucks that we all like but could never afford because of protectionist tariffs. I live in a rural area and I'm seeing so many more Dodge Rams, F-150s et al, Chevvies of all kinds that I ever saw before.
At least.

LakeMechanic said...

I yearned to see how Busty Ross, America's Sweetheart, celebrates Labor Day. Oh Well, there's always 2022.

Michael said...

I read today the company that does a lot of baking for Nabisco is going out on strike. Stock up on Oreos.

mamafrog said...

Unions run in my family, somewhat. My grandmother helped unionize the liberal newspaper she worked for back in the 40's or 50's, my uncle worked for the same newspaper all his life. (It's a liberal rag here in Oklahoma City.) There may have been others who were in unions but I'm not sure. Oldest son is in electrical workers union, doesn't really like them but the fact he gets paid extremely well is nice. I actually had to join one in WA state, to get paid by the state to take care of a relative. It was great but beat any other job for pay I've ever had with insurance, the union was crap and liberal though. So good and bad. Happy Labor Day, ya'll. As a side note, the due date for my oldest was on Labor Day of that year. Did not find it funny frankly, and she was late, lol.

She’s A Beauty said...

A giant head on a midget’s body. Literally, a walking, talking, racist freak show.

Anonymous said...

It's hard to know whether Al's for real or it's all just an Afro dizzy act.

Fish Out of Water said...
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ruralbob said...

America works less when we say, "Union, Yes!"

Fish Out of Water said...

Yes, Happy Labor Day!

Labors unions indeed have helped the working man and women, but then they atrophied into self-justification and have become the useless leeches on our economy and social structure.

Annnd for my experince with unions, start first with my college job, part time at a local grocery chain, unionized and the state not being 'right to work', had to reluctantly join. Well, when it came time for dues to be deducted, I had to pay the full boat regardless of how many hours I worked that week, sometimes leaving me with little more in my paycheck than enough to buy a couple of doughnuts. And a BTW, for the crap you received Stilton, as a 'college boy' from what I've observed, and admittedly its a generalization, they are doing what they are doing because of not applying themselves in school.

Move forward a few years and me starting employment in Japan with a major OEM and as part of the entry process, I made to spend a month on final assembly. At my station, as with others, there was no 'one and done task'. Can't remember how many tasks I had to perform in the 57 seconds I had, but no way the scam you mentioned would have been possible. Learned a lot from that experience, one being vehicle assembly line work is by NO way skilled labor, certainly not worth commanding $35 an hour straight time as I believe the UAW requires. The only skilled labor then was performed by the body welders and now even that is robotized. And if there was any free time, we were ordered to sweep and tidy up the line. That happening at a UAW-run plant? Hah!

Fast many years forward and I am at a transplant factory doing interpretation work for a new engine production line. The factory itself is not unionized (and hope for consumers, it never will be) but perhaps due to building codes, unionized pipefitters. millwrights and electricians had to be brought in to initially install the equipment/machines.

Some of these union workers earned the money they were paid, but they still had attitude. But there were others. Such as the unionized idiot who attached a 200+ volt electrical line to a 24 volt el3ctrc motor (guess now long the motor lasted). Then there were the union pipefitters.

On the line was a really cool machine that heated through electricity, crankshaft journals and then quenched them. Now as you might imagine, this machines uses coolant the way Nancy Pelosi uses our money, and the pipes for the coolant, perhaps 8 inches in diameter were connected and sealed through fittings secured by bolts. When it came time to start up the machine for trials, the coolant spewed every which way from the fittings, all because 'skilled ' union labor didn't tighten them down securely.

And last and I have to put the village idiot president in here, one of the items on the 'woke' march their Brave New World is increased unionization & membership. Proles if you will, to work and pay for the promises the UAW made to others, knowing full well they could not be delivered.

TrickyRicky said...

Fish Out Of Water said:

"Labors unions indeed have helped the working man and women, but then they atrophied into self-justification and have become the useless leeches on our economy and social structure."

Sort of like the government.

Fish Out of Water said...

@Trickyricky: And I lay the blame for that squarely on the sainted FDR.

American (and not too proud of it presently) Cowboy said...

Similar union story.
Many years ago when I was fresh out of high school I thought I would try my hand at pipeline welding for a living.

The state I lived in at the time was a closed shop state. So I dutifully went down to the union hall and informed them of my desire to work. Of course they told me that I would have to join not just one but two unions in order to get employment. Each union had a $35.00 monthly due and a $100.00 "initiation" fee that had to be paid up front. I did not have $1,040.00 to lay on the table at the time, so I asked if they would take the up-front dues and fees in addition to the monthly dues out of my paychecks each month? Their answer, "NO! You must pay BEFORE we let you work!" So there I was, young and ready to work and could not get a job without cash up front, and without work I could not get the cash needed for the dues. That was back in the day when minimum wage was just over $1.00 per hour, and journeymen welders were getting a little over $4.00 per hour. Even though they may have helped in the very early days I have had no use for unions ever since.

At least my chosen work and lifestyle for the last many decades does not require a union, only that I work. Like the Good Book says, “Anyone who does not want to work for a living should go hungry.”

Stilton Jarlsberg said...

@Readers- We seem to all be in agreement that unions have largely outlived their original purpose and usefulness.

Another fun anecdote from my own personal experience: I was in New York as a part of a group which would be presenting a show on stage (a BIG stage), and so our team needed to negotiate an agreement with the Teamsters to physically move everything around onstage (no matter how small and insignificant). When the Teamster team arrived at the table, their lead negotiator pulled a handgun out of his coat and, without saying a word, placed it on the center of the table. I think it's safe to say that they got the deal they wanted.

Among my group we shared a joke (very quietly, and with a full 360-degree scan of the surroundings first): Question - How do you know a Teamster has died? Answer - The donut falls out of his mouth.

Shelly said...

I had a neighbor when I was a young married woman who worked at a meat packing facility and was, of course, in the union. I watched him game the system, mostly via workers' compensation, and it made me sick. He was supposedly so injured that he could not work but was able to go fishing and ride motorcycles. Of course, there was a "doctor" in on the scam. For three years I worked at a unionized plant as a salaried employee in the legal department. The union bosses there were despicable. The unions may have had a good mission in the beginning, but like everything else power eventually corrupts, especially people who have no scruples.

TrickyRicky said...

@Stilton- I was once a Teamster. My summer job between freshman year and sophomore year at university was as an order puller at the Safeway distribution center in Denver. Basically driving around on electric pallet jacks, pulling merchandise, stacking it on a pallet and dropping it off at the loading dock. A week before I started, some moron had piled up a stack of wadded newspaper on the lunchroom floor and lit it on fire. The result was a big patch of melted linoleum and his dismissal. Turns out he was the shop steward and was back at work in a week.

The following summer I worked in Montana, south of Billings clearing brush and scrub for the widening and paving of a road into Bighorn Reservoir. This was also a union job with great wages and a nice per diem. The crew never joined the union until a big black limo came bumping down the jeep trail to the foreman's trailer in August. Three big guys in black suits walked into the trailer. A half hour later the foreman came out and informed us we had all just joined the International Brotherhood of Laborers.
When we had completed the clearing and stacking of brush we had to burn it. We had an old 6X6 water truck for safety during the burns. It took about half a day to fill from the little intermittent stream. The foreman asked if anyone had a Teamster's card. I was the only one who did.....I sunbathed on the top of that truck each day, then sprayed down the embers at the end of the day. My union experience ended on a high note.

Anonymous said...

@Stilton You mean a bunch of Texans (if that's where you were, of of course) couldn't muster someone with a bigger gun?

Navyvet said...

I could give you a lot of the same stories. I can also give you some extortion stories and threats. I quickly learned that unions, while great in their day of the 1930's, were nothing but mafia control scams starting in the 1950's and continuing to this day. Union leadership is as slimy as politicians. I cant say they ever did a thing for me except take money I could have used to support my family or simply buy beer. I never needed them. If I didnt like the job or working conditions found another job and then quit. Got out of the last union I was in in 1970 and never took a job that required union membership again.

Unclezip Is Pointing&Laughing said...

I did some work back in the early 90s on the Oreo plant in Porkland Oregon. I have not consumed one of those things since.

Fish Out of Water said...
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miniskunk said...

That certainly explains why I didn't last long on one manufacturing temp job I had years ago. I would run out of the tasks I was asked to do and would ask the supervisors for something else to do on a daily basis. From my point of view I was doing my job as I should be by being aware of the need to keep busy aka earning my pay. The lower level supervisors clearly didn't care.

Fish Out of Water said...

Yes, mafia controlled unions like the Teamsters had their day, as has the UAW. What has bothered me though is Hollywood's treatment of these parasites as near noble, semi adorable scamps, a la, the movies Hoffa, Bronx Tale, Goodfellas, and of course The Godfather.

Stilton Jarlsberg said...

@Anonymous- You're right, considering our delegation was from Texas there should have been a "Crocodile Dundee" moment: "You call that a gun? THIS is a gun." (grin)

John the Econ said...

" go to illegal aliens", or China.

And it's not necessarily that it's my intention to bash unions. It's just the way that it usually works out.

My main problem with unions is that they seek to monopolize labor. I detest monopolies in all forms, be they in power, capital, or labor.

And I always love @Stilton's personal union story. It parallels to many others I've heard over the decades. Don't do your job well because you're making the rest of us look bad. It's also a great example of why the Japanese took over so much of the American auto market by the '80s. The American auto industry was literally coasting on the market dominance they'd enjoyed since WWII while the quality of their product was diminishing. American consumers suffered.

I don't have a personal union story because I've never had the pleasure of working for one. (I wish my industry would unionize! It would eliminate competition from all the yah-hoos who think they can do what I do and I could double my rates while halfing my workload!) But I do have my sister's first employment experience as a good example.

She was working at a local unionized store during the holidays. As a "temp", the union allowed this. After the holidays, management was impressed with her and wanted to keep her on. A union rep came by our house to extol the benefits of membership and to sign her up. After doing some quick math regarding amortizing the "initiation fee" and other costs in addition to what they'd be taking from each of her paychecks, I pointed out that she'd actually be making less than minimum wage with the union. When asked to explain the benefit of this, the union rep could only offer meaningless babble, which was even less meaningful to a teenager looking for a part-time job. Needless to say, she quit the job.

I have many friends in the aviation industry. Many are fierce union advocates. And yet their main complaint is that they are slaves to their mediocre employers. They cannot leave one employer to join a better company without sacrificing their seniority, which would mean literally starting over at the bottom in both seniority and pay. So they're stuck. It's called "The Golden Handcuffs".

This paradigm would only appeal to someone who aspires to nothing more than getting by. No thanks. Mediocrity is not what made America great and the envy of the world.

This is a good example of why unionized industries in America have largely languished while the non-unionized (mostly "tech") sectors have thrived. Unionize the tech industry in America, and it will resemble the rust-belt in barely a generation.

Fish Out of Water said...

To add to an already longish list of why unionization is bad, there's a book I'd recommend if you haven't read it already, titled 'The Savage Factory'

But to be fair, I also remember this: 'If a company is stuck with a union, they've probably done something to deserve one.'

A final thought. The gravy train the UAW enjoyed would have continued forever and ever had, a.) the Detroit 3 been successful in beating back the early attempts of the Japanese OEMS to enter the U.S. market, and b.) had the UAW been successful in its attempts -which continue to this day- to "organize" the transplant factories.

John the Econ said...

"If a company is stuck with a union, they've probably done something to deserve one."

Unfortunately, that's not necessarily true. For example through the '30s, the Ford Motor Company paid some of the highest worker wages and benefits in the country; far better that what was offered by the GM or Chrysler. And yet by the '40s they too had to succumb to the UAW.

Anonymous said...

I had a similar union experience back when I was in college about the same time. I drove a delivery route for the local Pepsi bottler. Since I drove a truck, that apparently meant I was going to join the Teamsters at the end of my "probation period".

Worked my ass off all summer and actually enjoyed the hard work. 90 days later, my "probation" was over. I know this because the union steward met me at the pay window and demanded a $350.00 "initiation fee". I protested, because I was about to go back to college in two weeks and didn't want to join the union.

He got this stone cold look in his eyes and said, "Do you want to come to work Monday morning?" And I could tell he meant it. I had no choice.

Now a registered Teamster, I showed up on time for work on Monday morning, only to discover that the union had called a wildcat strike that was still going on when I left for school. I never did get back to go back to work.

Bobo said...

Back when I was a youth and had a paper route to earn money, One day, in jest, I told my DSA (District Sales Advisor I reported to) that I was going to organize all the paperboys in the Phoenix area for extra pay when we had to add an insert twice a week to every newspaper we delivered. I told him we were hired to deliver papers, not assemble them too for free.

I thought he was going to blow a gasket right on the spot. I could see his mind working through how he was going to tell his bosses at the paper what I was planning to do.

Fish Out of Water said...

Beg to differ, John the Econ. Ford as a place to work had lost its luster when the UAW started to knock on Henry Ford's door

Pete (Detroit) said...

Back, turn of the century, I was contracting for Chrysler.
The Printer Guy
Department had requested and got approved for a new printer. In advance, I pointed out they needed to request a table to put it on, and specified the location. When I showed up to install the printer, the table was across the aisle, and two cube sets down. Clearly, I could not run a net cable to the designated drop from there, so me and my associate moved the table, and set up the printer in the proper location.
Millwrights, who were looking at a two hour minimum OT bonus, wondered what happened, and when they saw the table was moved, filed a grievance against me. Boss covered, saying obviously I didn't understand the situation, and it wouldn't happen again.
I got ripped a new one.

Another time, a co-worker, who shared ethnicity w/ others on the hardware team (but not me) suggested I needed to not work so hard... "Slow down, man, you're making the rest of us look bad"
Dude, it ain't the dress.
The woman says 'honey, does this ass make my dress look fat?' is your first thought "it ain't the dress?"
Dude, I'm slacking as hard as I CAN, but I want to KEEP this gig.
Silly me - when it came time for cuts, I was at the top of the list... (I was also EXPENSIVE - dunno what the pimps were getting paid, but I was seeing $22/hr, in y2k...)

Fish Out of Water said...

Reminds me of something I once read about Soviet Russia. 'We pretend to work and they pretend to pay us'.

JustaJeepGuy said...

I have a somewhat different union story. Back in 1990 I worked at a place in Ohio that made machinery to wind electric motor stators. We had a line set up to test out and qualify prior to delivery to a customer in Chicago. The guys who came from the customer were union men but they went to WORK testing the machinery! They were busting a$$ running that line, and it was only a test. I found it difficult to believe that union guys had that kind of work ethic, but they certainly did. I don't know which union they belonged to, but the company was Bell & Gossett.

Michael Riles said...

From Lauren Boebert

Backwards Biden was more aggressive toward unvaccinated Americans today than he has been with the Taliban. You know, the terrorists he has been taking orders from and his regime called “businesslike and professional.” God, I want a real President again.

My reply

You and me both. Here's a scary then and now tune.

Tune then: "Here we come again. Catch us if you can." Boomer tune from the group The Dave Clark 5

Tune soon maybe hopefully not as we carte blanc bring in un-vetted Afghani's: "We will send our men. 9-1-1 again.” Al Queda's version.

To the tune Catch Us If You Can

We'll get in again.
Oh Yeah.
Slice the infidels heads.
POOF you're dead
Forging papers our game
live in dread
Like ATTA and

Catch us if you can.
From Afghanistan.
You will dare not BAN

WV then: West Virginia
WV now: Woke Victory

Then: Castro allowing all the mental patients and prisons to float to the US in order to get rid of them. Jimmy Carter didn't know better as he opened his arms to them.

Now: Al Queda MAYBE allowing the same along with terrorists with forged documents access via repatriation to the US for a 9-11 part II.

Anonymous said...

I worked at a defense contractor that had a strong union (I was salaried). Not too long before I started there had been a strike. My coworkers who had been there remember an announcement about it being okay to leave for home ... the tear gas had cleared.

One of my coworkers worked for Ford up in Michigan (he was a transplant to Texas). He told me about the same hiding places with cots/mattresses where they could go hide.

The few experiences I've had with unions have not been very good.