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Sunday, July 24, 2005

Box-Hauling 101

Manual labor is all it’s cracked up to be. It is hard work, fairly low paying, mostly mindless, a good calorie burner, and provides opportunities for a sense of accomplishment when sub-tasks are completed (like getting to the end of the semi I am unloading). It’s also exhausting, particularly when done during the wee hours.

I asked for an early morning shift because I wanted to be home for the dinner-bath-bed time of the evening, when parenting help is most useful. What I didn’t realize was that I was sacrificing my alone time with Mrs. Hammer. My shift, advertised as 4-8 AM, is actually more like 2:30-8 AM. That’s good because I work more and earn more, but means I have to get up at 1:30 AM, which requires an attempted bedtime of 7:30 PM. Basically, my ten-year-old has a later bedtime than I do. Throw in that my second job takes me through 3:30, and I have four hours of time with the fam Monday through Friday. But you know what? I’m not complaining. I asked for the job and shift that I got, and I am thankful that I have been blessed with the opportunity to work. Not everyone gets that opportunity.

I already can tell you that unions suck. Why? “I’ve been fired three times and never stopped working”, “I’ve done everything I can to get fired”, and “I used to work hard, but why bother? They pay me the same.” The union promotes mediocrity, as promotion within the union ranks is based solely upon how long you have been sucking oxygen there. I’m asking my supervisor on Monday to put me with other guys who will work hard, like I wish to do. Working with slackers is more tiring than working alone.

As you can see, the 2:30 to 8 shift has reduced blog time. Who knows when I’ll be able to post.


  • I have to somewhat disagree with the union comment. I was in a union, and yes, there was the "we are paid by the hour... not the job" mentality, and the promotion based on seniority, but there was also MAJOR protection! Our company was an Us (the union) vs. Them (the company). And trust me, the company HATED all things union. I got on the bad side of the management when I blew the whistle on some things, and the only thing that saved my job after that was union protection.
    Enjoy your manual labor, it's good for the body and soul... but don't discount all unions and union members.

    By Anonymous SAH Mom, at 7/24/2005 08:49:00 PM  

  • I've never really understood the US attitude towards unions. You'll find corruption, laziness and jobsworthiness everywhere - unions don't cause it. Without unions, there's nothing to stop companies exploiting workers because the worker has no power. But get enough workers together and they *do* have power - that's the principle of unions, and they've done immense good over the years.

    Companies have no divine right to earn money - there must be a balance between profit and wages.

    pax et bonum

    By Anonymous John, at 7/25/2005 07:17:00 AM  

  • Simply put, the union eliminates merit or performance based promotion and hiring/firing. While I acknowledge that corporations are no better than any other organization, including unions, the unions exist now to propogate themselves.

    I'm not advocating eliminating unions - what I advocate is not having a union shop if you are a business owner. It is one thing to make companies treat their workers fairly, it is another to force retention of sub-standard employees.

    SAH, do you have proof that "the only thing that saved my job was union protection"? I don't mean show-me proof, just your story? I'd like to hear it.

    Unions don't cause those negative human traits, John - but they DO propogate them. That isn't to say that all unuion members have those traits, but I have found that those without any ambition to increase their levels of responsibility through supervision are FAR more likely tto have them than the employees who have told me they want to be a supervisor.

    Good comments!

    By Blogger Hammertime, at 7/25/2005 12:08:00 PM  

  • I think that a "union" must be something different in the USA to the UK. Here, it's simply an organisation of workers, usually all in the same or similar trade. The union exists to promote workers' rights - fair pay and conditions, for example. The union is also the body that will call a strike if one is called for, and may often be the body that represents workers in negotiations with management (note that, without a union, there is no such negotiation!).

    So, what else do US unions do to earn your ire? I've not come across this "force the retention of substandard employees" - in the UK, someone can still be easily fired if incompetent or lazy. The employment laws protect us from unjust actions, not from the consequences of our own actions!

    pax et bonum

    By Anonymous John, at 7/25/2005 02:14:00 PM  

  • My minor experience with unions have never been great, either, and I've never worked in a real job that involved unions. But in the software industry there is already a good balance between employers and employees -- not everyone can do this work.

    Also, unions are not needed when employers are perfectly ethical.... But who can trust that to always be true?

    It's all about balance and competition. Without a balance of power between the company and the employer, you have a problem that is easy to exploit, and has been exploited continually over and over again throughout history.

    Unions aren't necessarily the best way to achieve that balance, but they are one way. It isn't perfect, but it is better than past practices of employers walking all over the employees.

    My guess is you would discover laziness even without unions. Your an ex-military officer and West Point graduate, for goodness sake! Face the facts, you are way above average when it comes to work ethic. Most people (including me) are lazy compared to you, your resume suggests you're in the top 1% there! Combine that with the fact you've only been doing this kind manual labor for a while and you are doing this by choice to support you life's dream of working for God, compared to the others that who've been doing this for years purely because they have to to get by and you'll find it really isn't fair to lay this all at the feet of Unions.

    By Blogger Mark, at 7/25/2005 04:14:00 PM  

  • My story, hmm? Well, the abridged version is that I blew the whistle on the "good old boy" system. Actually, there is more to it than that. At first, it was hostility simply b/c I was a woman doing the exact same job... which, of course, I was not qualified for or capable of.... Never mind that I took the same written, physical and job interview as everyone else. Then I got a promotion, once again, even though I took the same steps as everyone else, I was accused of using my back instead of my brain. It didn't help matters that I signed onto the crew under the supervisor I was accused of "getting help" from. While putting up with everything b/c I thought I didn't have a choice I began to notice that the men that for example went hunting with the management or went drinking with the supers after work were getting away with shabby work, laying the blame on other departments, getting every off day they requested regardless of what overtime it incurred for others. All the while, these same men are making totally inappropiate comments and comeons to me and some of the other females. When I denied their interests a new accusation... I was gay. I really didn't and still don't feel the need to explain that I am in a deeply commited marriage. However, when I went to corp management suddenly (and I mean literally, within a week) my vehicle was vandalized, my personal belongings were destroyed and my quarterly evaluation went from being really outstanding to I was a very poor worker. I began to receive bogus write ups and diciplines. At one point I was susupended and due to that lost my yearly bonus. Through it all, the union president stood by me, fought for me and did everything he could to get my diciplines removed from my record. However, eventually, I had all I could stand. We prayed long and hard and was given the answer that God would provide. It wasn't easy, but I quit. We struggled for several months while we downsized and got accustomed to our new budget, but we managed. Soon after, my husband received a raise and now, we are doing fine. The Lord has and will take care of us.
    About the union issue, though. I have no doubt that I would have been fired soon after I went to management. Afterall, it would have been easier to get rid of the one, than to fix the problem consisting of many. However, thanks to the hard work and great effort of my union president I got to leave and it shows on my resume that I resigned on good terms. After that I decided to stay at home with my kids for a while. I am looking forward to returning to work when both my babies are in school, but until then, we don't need it, so I'm staying home.
    Through it all, though, I support unions.

    By Anonymous SAH Mom, at 7/25/2005 09:52:00 PM  

  • SAH,
    It sounds like the union sucked to me. Why? Because your fellow "union" members had no consideration for their peers. They no more sought the good of the workers than the management did. What was "good" was your union president - that much is clear.

    By the way, who do you think trashed your stuff? Only management members? Not particularly likely. The union protected you, but it also protected them. Considering that, I don't know that the union was better as a whole for the workers. Have you considered that?

    When every employee tells me that they cannot be fired unless they kill someone, something is wrong with the union. In theory, our unions represent the same things that yours do. In reality, they seek to build themselves. That's why the Teamsters are leaving the AFL-CIO - not to make worker's lives better, but to increase membership. At least, that is their complaint - falling membership.

    You're right, it isn't the union's fault - people are responsible for their own actions, good or bad. I just feel like the union is not the benefit to the working man that it was, as the hard-working man is no more rewarded than the slacker.

    Good to see you back!

    By Blogger Hammertime, at 7/26/2005 12:42:00 PM  

  • Sounds like the real issue, then, isn't the unions but the way unions and management relate to one another. If the union are so close to the management that they can stop any union member being fired for any reason, something is wrong with the company as well as the union - or with your employment law.

    Anyhow, the beef is still not with unions per se but with corruption on both sides.

    pax et bonum

    By Anonymous John, at 7/26/2005 03:41:00 PM  

  • I think you have hit the nail on the head, John - and I think it is likely a combination of both. Thanks for your clarifying insight.

    By Blogger Hammertime, at 7/27/2005 12:28:00 PM  

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