While writing the article why do we miss the past, I kept thinking about the time and effort people put into working at the welding shops in southeast Texas. The more I thought about the working conditions, the lack of proper benefits and how the workers were exploited, the more irritated I became.
There was once a time when working in a welding shop equaled a good living. There was once a time the hard work was recognized, appreciated and rewarded. But those times are long gone.
You think its hot outside in July and August? Try crawling inside a piece of pipe that has been heated to 350 – 400 degrees so you can weld on it. Certain types of metal, such as chrome, require the metal to be preheated before you can weld on it. If the metal is not heated to a certain temperature before you weld on it, the weld can crack.
You think the dust in your house makes you sneeze? How would you like to blow your nose, and the rag be black? The dust from the grinding and gouging collects in your nose. Just think what its doing to your lungs.
Some companies act like worker safety plays second place to production. There were places I worked where we did not have fans to blow fresh air into sections of pipe we were working inside of. There were times when my lungs felt like they were being choked from the welding fumes. Times when the grinding dust made my lungs hurt for days.
There was one place I worked, the supervisor was an absolute asshole. During the week I told the supervisor I needed to take off early saturday to go to my brothers wedding. The asshole asked what time the weeding was. Then he added up how much time I needed to get home, get a shower, get dressed, and then drive to the wedding. I got off work about 2 hours before the weeding, and that was with a 45 minute drive home. Needless to say I was one of the last people to show up. That asshole supervisor could not even give me the day off, or even half a day off to spend some time with my family.
I dont know if it was the number of hours that the welding shops worked, or the low pay, or a combination of both that has me bitter? Time with my family is worth more then I made in overtime pay. There were times when I did not get a day off for 4 – 6 weeks, take a day off, repeat for 4 – 6 weeks, and that was working 12 hour shifts.
One of my biggest regrets in life is not spending enough time with my family. When you work at a job where you get very little free time off, and the time you do get off you are are so exhausted you do not have the energy to do anything, it creates a lot of regret in your life.
I did not I needed to to support my family. But at the same time, time with my family was sacrificed on the alter of money.
Lack of proper benefits
There are “benefits”, and then there are “benefits that should go with any job in a first world nation”.
Barely scrapping by should be a second world and third world problem, not a first world problem.
Having to work 50, 60, 70 and hours 80 to make ends meet should be a third world problem not a first world problem.
Having you boss give you a 25 or 50 cent yearly raise is an insult to a skilled craftsmen. But yet somehow we justify wages not keeping up with inflation.
If a company can not afford to give their employees a raise, how about a 36 hour work week instead of a 40 hour work week. How about more paid holidays, how about a company party every once in awhile. How about a 32 hour work week instead of a 40 hour work week?
Dental and vision insurance should be part of any benefits package in a first world country. If the owner of a company can afford a private jet, then the employees should get first world benefits.
Exploitation of skilled workers
Excessive work hours, low pay and lack of proper benefits all combined means the workers are being exploited.
High unemployment facilitates exploitation.
I have had bosses tell me straight up, “if you do not like working here, we have a stack of applications of people looking for a job”. In other words, the company was not going to negotiate anything with people begging for a job.
There were several shops I worked at where the top pay was barely above poverty. When they said they were glad to be able to give me a 25 cent raise, I got a sick feeling in my stomach. Do what? A 25 cents raise in a year? That does not even cover the increases to the price of gas. After paying my basic bills I barely had money to drive to work for a week. But somehow the company was “proud” be treating its employes like that?
Working in some (not all) of the welding shops in southeast Texas is probably about as close to a sweat shop as you can get.
There are some shops out there that treat their employees good, but they are far and few between.
If I had to pick two things that cause me to feel bitter, it has to be the excessive hours, and the low wages. There is no excuse for a skilled craftsman having to work 60 hours a week to pay their basic bills.
Anything over 40 hours should be a luxury, and not a necessity.
Why should I have to miss my childs birthday party because of mandatory overtime? Why should I have to miss holidays because of mandatory overtime?
There was one job I had with a cable TV company where I was on call for 3 holidays straight. But that is a different story, we are talking about welding shops.
Working in welding shops sucks, big time. Why should someone work in hot, sweaty, dirty, and dangerous conditions for barely over poverty wages?
Someone was killed in two of the shops I worked at. And for what, $10 or $12 an hour?
After busting my ass for 2 1/2 decades to scrap by a meager living, I understand why welfare leaches sit on their ass and draw from the state. Who in their right mind wants to bust their ass for 50, 60, 70 hours a week, just to be able to pay their most basic bills.
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