Homesteading and Survivalism

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Tag: welding shops

I Believed The Lie

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This is another one of my welding sucks articles. If you do not want to read about how bad it is to work in a fabrication shop in southeast Texas, just move along.

When I was growing up I was told that if you did a good job, your efforts would be recognized and you would be rewarded for your hard work.

I now know that is a lie.

The lie of “work hard in the hopes your employer gives you a raise” is a wage slave mentality. By working hard you set aside your own standards and adopt the standards someone else has set for you. Do you want to live life the way you want, or the way someone else wants?

“If I weld that nozzle and don’t bust an x-ray, then I will get a raise”,,, is a slave mindset. If I just do this, or if I just do that, then the owner of the company will be happy, and I will get some scraps from his table. Sounds more like the life of a dog rather then the life of a free man.

When I was working in the various welding shops around southeast Texas and southwest Louisiana, I would look at my pay check in disgust. I busted my ass, did a good job, and was rewarded with barely above poverty wages on 40 hours a week. How is someone supposed to buy a home, buy a car, have kids,,, on less then $25k a year? To listen to the weld shop owners, the employees should be proud to work in dangerous and dirty conditions of barely above poverty wages.

What I regret most about my career is:

1 – Believing the lie

2 – Going into the welding field

3 – Staying in the welding field

My first job at a welding shop was in 1986.  It took me from 1986 – 1995 to finally admit that welding sucked and I needed to get a new career path.  In 1995 I started going to Lamar College in Port Arthur Texas.

Now that I am out of the welding field I am free to express my frustration without the worry of getting blackballed.

I was once told that if an employee spoke up, the various welding companies would agree not to hire him, thus condemning the worker and his family to poverty.  Or, the worker would be forced out of the welding field.

Nobody had to force me out of working in welding shops, I left upon my own free will.  I was glad to leave and hopefully never look back.  The only time I look back is when I write these articles and have to pull up some old memories.

How life choices bite you in the butt

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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.

I should have know in 1987 that working in welding field was a dead end job. But I justified staying in the welding shops because I was making good money. In 1989 when I was 21 years old, I was bringing home anywhere from $500 – $1,000 a week. That was after insurance and taxes. I felt I was accomplishing something with my life.

Once again I overlooked the obvious. Working 80 hours a week when you are 21 years old is one thing. What was I supposed to do when I got into my 40s and 50s? Would I be able to do hard manual labor at 50 years old? What effects would steel working have on my body?

I blinded myself that welding companies treat employees like disposable products.

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Why I left the welding field

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My name is Kevin Felts and I have 15 years experience in the welding field.  In June 1986 I took a job in a welding shop.

From 1986 – 1999 I worked in various welding shops between southeast Texas and southwest Louisiana.

Around August 1999 I was laid off from a welding shop.  When I was laid off from that welding shop, I decided to go into the computer field.

Between 2003 – 2004 I went back into the welding field for 12 months.

This past weekend my wife and I were passing through the Beaumont Texas area.  While we were around Beaumont, I showed her some of the welding shops I used to work at.

Seeing those welding shops brought back bad memories.  I realized that all of the shops we looked at had common traits.  Some of those common traits were poorly trained supervisors and poor quality pay.

Company A

One welding shop I worked at in in the Beaumont Texas area, my supervisor (lets call him dumbass) and I had worked together at another welding shop a few years earlier.  At this other shop, my wifes grandfather was the foreman.  When work got low, the workforce had to be reduced, so a few people were laid off. Dumbass happened to be one of the people laid off.  This was in 1987.

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Employers who treat employees like second class citizens

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Kevin Felts working on his bar-b-q pit

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.

Then there was the mandatory night-shifts and weekends. When my second son was born, taking off for his birth was the first day I had off in maybe 6 weeks. And that was working 10 and 12 hour shifts.

I felt like my life was one step above slave labor. The companies paid their employees barely enough that the employees would literally beg for overtime.

One bastard supervisor I worked for once told me, if you play an employee good he will not want to work overtime. If you pay an employee a low wage, the employee will have to work overtime.

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Favorite fab shops in southwest Louisiana and southeast Texas

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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]

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Welding shops in southeast Texas and southwest Louisiana

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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?  What are the welders, fitters and helpers supposed to do about it? When an entire industry exploits its workers, there is not much that can be done.

I feel that most of the welding (fabrication) shops in southeast Texas and southwest Louisiana exploit their employees. Not all of the welding shops exploit their employes, but a lot of them do.
 
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.

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I Used To Build Heat Exchangers

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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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Why do we miss the past

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survivalistWhy do we miss the past so much? Why do we look back and say “those were good times”, even if the times were not “that” great?

Career Path

I grew up in a little town in southeast Texas called Bridge City. My parents moved to Bridge City sometime around 1976. After I graduated high school I got married and bought a home.

Fast forward 14 years, my wife and I divorced and I moved to the Conroe / Montgomery area for a few years.

In 2003 my new wife and I moved back the Bridge City area.

After I finished high school I went to work for a welding shop. Between 1986 – 1999 and 2003 – 2004 I collected around 15 years experience in the fabrication of ASME certified pressure vessels and heat exchangers.

During that 15 years I learned a lot (not all) of the welding shops in southeast Texas take joy in paying low wages and exploiting workers. The low pay was one reason why I had to leave the Bridge City area. To those fab shop owners that get some kind of sick kick out of exploiting their employees, screw you. There is a special place in hell for greedy bastards like you.

Even with 15 years experience working in various welding shops, the wage I was earning did not allow my wife and I to buy a home. The home prices were so inflated that the average middle income wage earner could not afford to buy.  In the end, the lack of decent wages, and bloated housing market drove my wife and I out of the Bridge City area.

Even though the job market was ok at best, and the housing market was too expensive, I miss living in Bridge City. Its a good area to live in, and has a low crime rate. I just wish employers were willing to pay skilled workers what they are worth.

Even though I resent being exploited, why I miss working in the welding shops? Why do I miss being exploited? Why do I miss backbreaking work? Why do I miss barely scrapping by on my bills?

Maybe its not that I miss those hardships in life, maybe I miss times that seemed simpler?

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