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Union Tales: My Father's experiences with unions

October 31, 2005

For 40 years, my father worked for the Rochester Telephone Company, almost 30 years as a foreman / manager. During that time, he was never absent due to sickness. This is not because he was never sick, but because he went to work even if he was sick. He first started working there several years after his immigration from Germany, where he'd been trained in technical electronics at a trade-school.

During his time working for Rochester Tel, he numerous interesting experiences with the Unions, all of which illustrated the work of DiLorenzo on unions.

I'd like to share a few of his experiences with the unions, and some of his union "workers". According to "union rules", everyone had their specific job to do, and couldn't be asked to do anything else, nor could anyone else do the job of another (as this would take away from his job security). There were recurring problems at the phone-company, which none of the union workers seemed to bother fixing. So, my father would sometimes take on these problems (normally some mechanical malfunction), and fix them. While doing this one time, some union stiff ran up to him trying to scold him for doing "someone else' job" (namely, the union-workers job). In response, my father said, "When I see you or one of the union guys fixing this, then I won't come down here and fix it. Otherwise, I'm going to fix it." The union-guy didn't have a response.

Another interesting experience occured during a 6-month strike by union employees. While they were on strike, my father and other foremen took on more work, and did the jobs formerly done by the union-guys themselves (in addition to their own). While doing this, they realized how much they'd been cheated. At the phone-company, there were various "trouble-cases" reported, and the union employees could typically fix about 8 of them per day. Because they wanted to get overtime, they'd go about "fixing" these problems in the slowest manner conceivably justified, taking numerous breaks and whatnot. My father and other foremen each could fix about 16 trouble-cases a day. Summarily, they could and did do the job better than the union employees; this was probably due to a combination of laziness and incompetence on the employees part, as well as the desire to clock overtime.

The so-called "strike" was actually a favor the company, during the time of its occurence. My father said, "things were running better than ever during that strike". Unfortunately, when the union decided to end the strike, the company had to take back all of those lazy and incompetent bums.

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