Friday, September 24, 2010

I am shocked... SHOCKED...

Chrysler Auto Workers Caught Drinking During Lunch, Possibly Smoking Pot (with VIDEO)

Uh, yeah, they are acting like this is brand new thing - NEWS, even. Yes, it's very bad behavior but this kind of thing has been going on for a long, long time. It's not all autoworkers who are inebriated at work, but I think it's enough to matter.

I was an auto assembler from 1976 to 1979. It was damned hard physical work and in summer it got up to 125° at my station/part of the line (and it wasn't the hottest area there). It's not only hard work, it's really, really boring. You are stuck in the same place doing the same thing over and over and over again. In this place a car went by about once a minute, so there was time to do whatever it was but falling behind couldn't happen. We put in 53 hours a week for 3 weeks, then 45 hours the 4th week (when we would have Saturday off). Like I said, it was hot, and also really filthy - everything was covered in grime, there were mice and roaches, very poor ventilation and heavy machinery going everywhere, hydraulic tools, forklifts, sexual harassment, pranks (those were usually OK), loud noise and lots of crap. Mostly, the biggest problem was boredom.

I was in my early-mid-20s, and was having as much fun as I could, working hard and partying hard.

During our half-hour lunch, a lot of people hit the nearby bar or convenience store, and guzzle or smoke as much as possible within the time limit. Then, if that wasn't enough, during the shift many had flasks, liquored thermoses, cocaine, whatever could be sneaked.

We got a week off for Christmas, and on that last work day there would be approved parties in some of the work areas - and there would be a punch bowl. It would end up spiked at the source or in the cup. I remember a Christmas party where one guy was so drunk they had to practically carry him to the time clock at the end of the shift, and with his time card placed in his hand, someone else held his hand to clock him out. It was strictly against the rules to clock out another person. We all knew that if you were buying a Big-Three car, it would be wise to make sure it wasn't assembled on the last day for Xmas break.

The foremen were not in on this. They knew about a lot of it, but none of it was officially tolerated. They could look the other way - or not - depending on how they felt like dealing with it. See, if they sent you home, they had to get somebody to do your job NOW. It was a hell of a lot worse for a worker to not be there, because a job on the assembly line can't wait. The line has to keep moving to keep up the profit$.

The guy a couple of stations down from me was a hard-core drunk (and by that I mean he was a lot drunker than anybody else at any given time). He could easily drink a whole bottle of something (and now I can't remember whether he preferred whiskey, gin or vodka) in the course of a day - every day. One day he came in so drunk already that he leaned over to do a job and just kept going... passed out. The foreman was mad as hell, and he got him up and sent him home. The guy left and crashed his car. He wasn't killed, just banged up pretty good. His job was to install the passenger-side seat belt.

I was already a carouser when I started working there, but it was during that time that I started to snap out of it. I got religion for awhile (substituting one damned thing for another one) and eventually gave up the weed and cut the booze waaaay down. The only thing that kept me from ending up as a laid-off factory worker with no skills was the fact that I got myself back in school - taking classes in my spare time. At first I decided to become a draftsman (a "skilled trade" they called it), then set my sights higher on technical illustration - figuring I'd probably have to move to Detroit at some point, as that kind of work was only done at World HQs. (Thanks to the layoffs and plant closings, I never went to Detroit.)

My skilled trade studies and eventual 4-yr degree (even though acquired at age 40) and the smarts I was born with turned out to be the things that saved me better than baby jesus, because the auto industry did not end up providing a future for me. Ever since my first office job in the mid-1980s, I've gotten by without excessive back-breaking work and in fairly safe and pleasant working conditions.

So far, anyway.

And I'm never bored out of my head.

More blue-collar tales here.


Debra She Who Seeks said...

Good for you! The assembly line is a soul destroyer.

Dr. Monkey Von Monkerstein said...

I get drunk off my ass too if I had to work on an assembly line.

Blueberry said...

Over the years there have been more and more jobs replaced by robots, and some people may not understand, but in many cases this is a good thing. Some jobs (especially some of these such as on the paint line) should not be done by humans. We are too fragile, inside and out. A job can break you mentally, emotionally and physically. This one can do all 3. I think, given enough years, some people are able to settle in and cope, learn to live with it and find balance - but you don't get there in just a few years.

Strayer said...

I worked in a cannery in Alaska, sliming Salmon. At one point a girl on the beheading machine got zombied out, got the salmon going in crooked, tried to reach in to correct so the machine wouldn't get jammed and her chewed out and instead her arm got caught and broken off by the machine. So I got switched to that. We'd get in this zone, like zombies, and making zombie mistakes could end you up minus body parts.

I got put on the can inspection line for awhile, but that was so boring I could not do it. Would put me in a standing trance. We were supposed to pull every 7th can to check the rims for proper seal. The moving line of cans and counting would droll me out so my brain would shut off. Like being asleep standing up and apparently awake. I can't do assembly line work. I just am not cut out for that kind of boredom and brain dead mechanical repetition. I don't know how people do it and stay sane.

Blueberry said...

Strayer, that is a horrible story, and work horror stories are far too common. The Company will work people mercilessly - way into the realm of danger and death risk. They don't care and don't have to. And machine-paced assembly (or task) line jobs are some of the most stressful for many reasons.

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Anonymous said...

First I'd like to say congrats for getting out of such a hellish job. But even if the job sucks that is no excuse for drinking and getting stoned on the job like the asshats in the video! They are lazy and selfish!

People pay them money to do their job not to get blitzed in a parking lot.

Work parties are one thing, but every single day, in the morning no less?