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#11 Dayshift, Unions & Bad Marriages

Some huge percentage of couples meet at work. I bet that statistic is a bit less these days with the #metoo stuff but in 1983 things were still fast a loose. Diane worked for me in component repair and after the requisite dating we got cohabitated for about a year and got married in 1984. She was of Mexican descent and I explained all my grand plans - which were developing at this time - to join that "international" part of GE and get myself assigned to Australia. She appeared to be all in while we were dating but my radar started pinging when immediately after the marriage she started househunting on the same street her mom lived on in Yucaipa, Ca. Yucaipa was not a bad place, out I10 into the entrance of Banning Pass. We had an apartment there for a year or so. We also later in the game rented a big old 4 BR stick house in Fontana. It was a sucky area. Dry, hot and dusty. Houses like 10 feet apart. The Fontana Steele mill was still partially running and there were giant piles of black coal slag all over the lots surrounded by tumbledown chain link. The whole thing looked like a trap to me but for a lot the folks there it was the American dream. I am sure houses there are worth like $800k now but I could never see myself staying in Ontario for a whole career in a cardboard house in Fontana.

I was the nightshift foreman, Diane was on my crew and of course ( I found out later), she was having an affair with my leadman! But that's not what put the nail in the coffin of my first marriage but were already deteriorating between us and in hindsight the writing was on the wall. Our own little daytime drama.

Night shift was a bit isolated. The muckety mucks in the union were all on day shift. Night shift had union reps but generally we all hunkered down, had good relations, go the job done and had few grievances and conflicts. Day shift was crazy. Lots of egos and lots of activity.

The next big thing that happened was the GE Flat Iron plant closed in Ontario. Who cares, right? Nope. See, the flat iron union and the Ontario union were the same union - United Electrical Workers. I suppose the jet engine plant organized under the UEW because of GEs long history in electrical stuff - they weren't in any transportation type union. Anyhow, this meant that the union could arrange for long service flat iron workers to bump into the jet shop. There actually wasn't much carnage because the jet shop was expanding again.

Tinker AFB, being pleased with the TMF program decided to send the entire Fan Frame to us as well. Once again we set up an isolated building to completely disassemble, clean, repair and reassemble the case, frame, vanes and all. With my relationship situation I asked to be the day shift foreman in this new shop. It started as a one shift operation, I got the job and it was great... for a while.

My crew was made up largely of flat iron workers. They were experienced workers, hard workers and they were pretty much all glad to have a job. The day shift union didn't like this closed door shit and on some level I think they thought the workers were too happy. So I would get grievances filed for letting a bench worker move a pallet, or clean up a spill or some other nonsense. These grievances were just currency to settle other issues and gain leverage. "We'll settle these 3 grievances against Dan with you giving him a "stern warning" and you bring Bob back to work who was caught doing Cocaine in the tool crib and was fired." Literally that's how it was.

Then, work slowed down... I knew a guy in high school named Derrick Terry. He was a black kid, I was a white kid and the third ethnicity in HS were the Mexicans. I played soccer in HS and got along great with the Mexicans but there were always school fights - Black on Mexican. Mexican on White. White on Black. One time I in a pretty big riot I saw Derrick Terry just beating the crap outta people.

Derrick got hired as a janitor on a work release deal from Chino prison. He promoted his way to forklift driver by seniority and then into my shop. He wasn't a bad worker but he was volatile. In the inevitable slow down, Derrick got bumped to a "med systems" shop in Chino. Of course GE made imaging tables, they were in the same UEW so Derrick could bump his way there.

He finishes work on a Friday after a week of pay and overtime hours, goes to Med Systems but then shows up in my shop on Thursday really, really pissed off because payroll didn't pay him his overtime. I said, "Hang tight. Let me run to payroll and see if I can get you paid." Of course payroll recognized the mistake but said they could not pay him until next payday and could not cut a check that day.

Derrick Terry blew up... at me... and would listen to no reason. "You mutherfucker gonna get me my money or I am gonna fuck you up." I tried reasoning with him but no way. He grabbed an inlet probe, a hollow titanium vane about 2 feet long that captured air for instrumentation, raised it up and threatened to beat me with it. I flashbacked to HS with him and a tire iron and knew he could and probably would do it.

I said, "You aren't gonna hit me" and after a couple of back and forths of yes I ams, I turned and walked to the exit door. As I exited the door the vane hit the wall about 2 feet from my head as he tossed it and stormed out.

I headed to HR, explained what happened. Derrick was fired and security at both plants were instructed to not let him on the facility. Problem solved right? Of course not. 2 weeks later I am called to Tom Petroze's office - head of HR - and he says, "I wanted to tell you personally Derrick is coming back to work. The union was willing to settle like 10 grievances to get this guy back and when you look at it, it really was our fault for screwing up his pay." I was floored but not surprised and I that point I knew I had to get outta this zoo.

That opportunity was right around the corner.

Derrick Terry's murder weapon of choice. Not a TF39 probe but typical of the design and function. Somewhere in the future I will talk about the journey of the icing probes...

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I can see why you are pisse doff with the unions in the US but over here they did and still do good work. I was in the ETU (Electrical Trades Union) around about the time of this post (85-86) but only because I was working at a data cabling company and they had a closed shop for most jobs.

We used to show up to a building that had been entirely gutted to remove absestos or whatever and it was just us and the electrical guys competing for duct space between floors. I was just a lowly cable puller but I do remember my boss negotiating with the electrical guys to share tolls, zip ties and whatever.

It sounds…

Dan Deutsch
Dan Deutsch
Jul 26, 2022
Replying to

I am not really anti-union. They did a huge amount for the American worker in terms of safety, fair(er) working conditions and a bunch of other things.

But everything in America gets corrupted. From the teamsters on down the unions become political and power entities in their own rights. Leaders are always lusting after the power and the money...

A CEO is measured on only one thing. Shareholder value - i.e. stock price and dividends. Of course the CEO and all the board members have a shitload of stock. There is nothing in their charter to share the wealth so they screw the workers as much as possible.

The Unions directly oppose this power and it would seem to be…

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