Homesteading and Survivalism

Living a simple life

Tag: heat exchangers

I Regret Working In The Welding Field

A little about my work history; in 1986 I went to work for S&T Fabrication (they were in Woodville Texas at the time), in 1987 I went to work for Ohmstede at their Sulphur Louisiana shop. I worked at Ohmstede from 1987 to 1991.

Between 1991 – 1996 I bounced around between the various welding shops in southeast Texas and southwest Louisiana.

In 1996 I landed a job at Allied Fabrication in Rose City Texas. Allied was one of the better companies I worked for.

The other companies that will remain nameless can kiss my ass. The sorry ass companies that exploit their employees, pay terrible and provide no benefits will not be mentioned by name.

Its not that I regret working in the welding field, I regret allowing myself to be exploited. Why should someone have to work 60, 70, 80 hours a week to be able to live?

While I was working at Ohmstede my supervisor (Bill Scott) told me that it was either feast or famine. Either you worked the overtime and had a good paycheck, or you worked 40 hours a week and starved.

In other words, sacrifice time with your family on the alter of money.

How life choices bite you in the butt

When I decided to write this article I was having problems picking a title. Lately I have been doing some thinking. What promoted this was a comment posted on one of my post. The comment was in reference to some of my post sounding bitter.

I want to be honest with my readers, my poor life choices have led me on the path of bitterness.

Who is to blame for my life choices? I am.

Working in the welding field

In 1986 when I graduated high school I decided to enter the workforce instead of going to college. My wifes grandfather helped get me a job at a local welding shop. I should have known something was wrong when the company did not offer and kind of benefits, such as health insurance, or retirement.

In 1987 I got a job at another welding shop, but this job had lots of overtime and some benefits.

Employers who treat employees like second class citizens

Kevin Felts working on his bar-b-q pit

For around 15 years I working in various welding shops in southeast Texas and southwest Louisiana. There were a lot of reasons why I left the welding field – lack of benefits, lack of decent pay and being treated like a second class citizen.

One time my wife called the I was working at and asked to speak to me. Welding shops do not like for employees to take phone calls unless its an emergency. Some dumbass engineer told my wife the shop employees were not allowed to receive phone calls and hung up.

My wife called back again and this time asked to speak to my supervisor. My boss called me to the office and let me take the call.

When my told me what had happened on the fist call, I was so pissed I was ready to whip that engineers ass. How dare he tell me wife should could not talk to me. My supervisor said he will talk to the engineer about personal phone calls.

That is a good example of how people who work in the fab shops across southeast Texas and southwest Louisiana are treated like second class citizens.

Favorite fab shops in southwest Louisiana and southeast Texas

In my career across various fab shops in the southwest Louisiana and southeast Texas between 1986 – 1999 and 2003 – 2004, I worked at all different types of companies. Some companies treated employees well, some places treated the employees like crap.

There are a lot of things that set companies apart from each other. Two of the most important have to be management and benefits. Working conditions are also important, as well as safety. But if you dread going to work because your supervisor is an asshole, it makes for a bad work situation.

I have worked for my share of assholes, and I have worked for my share of great people.

Its going on 8 years since I left the welding field. In all, I spent close to 15 years building ASME certified pressure vessels and heat exchangers. I worked on everything from cyanide to water service heat exchangers and vessels.

There is something about working with your hands. At the end of the day you can look at the pressure vessel or heat exchanger and say “I built that.”

The two companies I miss working at, Allied Fabrication in Rose City Texas and Industrial Equipment & Engineering in Sulphur Louisiana.

[Related Article – Welding shops in southeast Texas and southwest Louisiana]

Welding shops in southeast Texas and southwest Louisiana

What happens when an entire industry exploits its workers? Leave and find another job? Then have to wait months for their health insurance to kick in, lose whatever vacation time they have,,, and for what, to be exploited again? Well, some of the companies I worked for did not provide health insurance or vacation time, so leaving those companies would not have been a big deal.

I feel that most of the welding (fabrication) shops in southeast Texas and southwest Louisiana exploit their employees. What are the welders, fitters and helpers supposed to do about it?

From 1986 – 1999 I worked in various fabrication shops in southeast Texas and southwest Louisiana. In 2003 I went back into the welding field, in January 2004 I left the welding field again, and hopefully will never go back.

During this article I am going to re-frame from listing company names. I fear that if I list a company name, I might get sued because the company is butt hurt that a former employee is speaking out. A lot of the welding companies tell their employees, “if you do not like it, leave.” In the 1980s and 1990s I did not have a way to speak out, but now I do. I feel that I have been out of the field long enough that I can finally speak out.

Why did I wait so long before posting this article? Maybe because I have taken a long time to come to grips with my life in the fabrication shops.

This article is based on my personal experiences in welding shops from 1986 – 1999, and in 2003 – 2004.

I Used To Build Heat Exchangers

Kevin Felts, fitter and welderIf you do not know what a heat exchanger is, they are like radiators for chemical and oil refineries. “Radiator” is not a good term, because heat exchangers can heat or cool, depending on what needs to be done.

It was around August of 1987, I left a hell hole of a company where the owner exploited and ass raped the employees every chance he got, to a company that worked its employees into the ground.

I do not want to name names, as I do not want to get sued for saying stuff the company may not like.

Heat exchanger companies are there to serve the petrochemical industry. If some oil company needs an exchanger striped and retubed, the human cattle work 12 hours a day, 7 days a week until the job is finished.

I worked so many hours, there were times when I had to ask people what day it was. Time just blurred together.

I saw my kids maybe 2 or 3 hours a day,,, if that. When I was working night shift, I would wake up around 12 noon, or 1 pm, eat lunch, then have to leave at 2:30 to be at the job by 3:30pm. Good thing my kids were little and not in school. If they were in school, I would not have seen them for 4 – 6 weeks at a time.

The shift rotation was absolutely terrible. 2 weeks on days, 2 weeks on nights, 2 weeks on days,,,,. If we were working 7 / 12s, the shift rotation was suspended and you just stayed on whatever shift you were on.

The dumb-asses in management could not arrange the shift rotation on the weekends off. There were times when people had to leave at 8pm or 10 pm, and be back at work at 5am.

For some reason we could not work shifts like police do and get a 7 day break on our rotation. It was like the upper management loved to ass rape the employees every chance they got.

Terrible Benefits

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