Wednesday, December 19, 2012

"Right to Work" State Blues (Short Short Story)

The first action he took when he became our supervisor was to put an end to our riding around on the shop's pallet jacks as if they were scooters. He'd already rubbed me the wrong way a few minutes earlier when, in his introductory speech, he told us about how he'd "fallen in love" with those huge injection molding machines that cluttered up the shipping area. It's been downhill from there, ever since that first day.

T_____ quickly informed us that he was now the shop's supervisor. Knowing glances shot back and forth between all us workers. He used to run the plant that made our receptacles in California before they moved it to Juarez, Mexico. He'd never done any of the work that we do, yet he was going to tell us how to do it from now on. Great.

The second thing he did was shit us out of our twice annual cut from the sale of scrap aluminum. A_____, the President of the company, would let the scrap pile up for six months or so, rent a flatbed truck, sell off the material, and slip each of us workers a crisp $100 bill upon his return. It was a nice gesture, one that we all appreciated. Of course that all changed once T______ was on the scene. He informed us that instead of getting an extra 200 bucks a year we'd be treated to a pizza party. He promptly forgot about this promise, but after a few months had gone by I took the initiative to remind him. After the meal was over, he let us know that he'd never make the mistake of buying us food again. It seems we didn't thank him profusely enough for his "generosity."

He spent the next year systematically getting on the bad side of each and every one of us with an unnecessarily abrasive communication style - the kind that tells you with a few words and facial expressions that you're not only an idiot, you're an asshole too.

For me, it came early one January morning. I had a notepad out on my work table, so I could jot down any ideas I may have had. I'm a graphomaniac; it's my habit. You see, assembling electrical distribution devices is hardly technically or intellectually demanding work. You spend hours doing mind-numbingly repetitive tasks. It's boring.

I happened to put pen to paper at the exact moment he walked out of his office. He marched over to my bench in that forward-leaning, lumbering gait of his, his neatly trimmed white walrus mustache flaring out beneath his white nostrils, neatly trimmed white hair encircled a shiny bald spot on his head like a perverted tonsure.

"Are you writing?"
"Sometimes."
"This is unacceptable. You can't do that. S______ says you're taking twice as long to turn in your jobs as you should."

I knew it was bullshit. In my five years with the company, I'd carefully observed each and every other worker in the place and compared my speed to theirs. I was at least as fast as anyone else, and a great deal faster than a few of my coworkers.

"I'd consider this stealing from the company."

I said nothing, my face revealed nothing, but inside I was smoldering. I'm a blue collar worker in a "right to work" state, and at the time I was attempting to support my family of four on $11 an hour, with no government assistance.

Those machines that he "loved" - they just sat there in the back of the shop, all set up and doing nothing. The company's President had explained to us that we would be making our own receptacles, using them in our connector strips and other products, and selling the surplus. In fact, they've sat there collecting dust for the past 3 years - for a price. T______ rents them to the company, and they ain't cheap. We're talking thousands of dollars every month, in addition to his tidy salary. Furthermore, we have neither installed a single receptacle in any device we've sold since T_____'s reign began, nor sold any.

T_____ points his finger a lot, criticizes the way we use drills and machinery, and tells us we need to be cleaning up more often. He does little more than that and collect the checks.

Now you tell me, who's the thief?