|Union Dues - and Union Blues|
Friday, January 29, 2016
JOINED THE UNION - A True Story
My continued fiction story will resume soon - Keep posted.
My uncle got me a job roofing and since it was a union shop I had to join the union. The union was controlled by the older members and part of their job protection was to require the new members to start as apprentices. This was something new for none of the older membership had ever been required to be apprentices they just paid their dues and they were automatically full-fledged roofers.
As an apprentice you not only did the heavy dirty work the older roofers would not want to do. They also would take your job when the slow season came.
One time in particular me and another apprentice both got our jobs taken from us. I had the start of a family and had to hustle to care for them. It was down to the union hall at seven o’clock and wait to see if some junk job became available; something the older roofers didn’t want to do so I could get a day’s work. It was back to the union hall the next day and if I was lucky another days work.
Once a job ended up being a six week job which I really needed. Suffice it to say it wasn’t easy paying our bills but we always managed to get by. My wife, Hazel always fed us well with very little money. She almost never had more than ten dollars to feed the five of us along with having to buy the other necessities.
Back to the union; I was required to attend several meetings a year or be knocked off my job so I always made the minimum number. Once a year we would vote on who would go back East and represent our local. The number to go was five and they would receive a week’s pay plus expenses which amounted to around four hundred and fifty dollars at that time.
After listening to the ones who wanted to go we would vote. I recall one candidate who wished to be included in the panel standing up and saying; “Now you know all these guys are going to do is go there and get drunk and I can get drunker than any of them.” After a few more words from others we voted and sad to say he didn’t get to go.
When they returned they were supposed to give a report at the next meeting and one of the first guys stood up and said; “We went to the International and uh. We went to a meeting.” He continued to say; “Well Bill took some notes uh,” and sat down. One of the members stood up and said; “Well what do you think of that four hundred and fifty dollars’ worth.”
They managed to break up the fight that broke out before much damage was done. Fights were the norm at the meetings because there was quite a bit of drinking before the meetings and someone would get ticked off before the evening was over.
After finishing the three years apprenticeship I became a journeyman roofer and my job was secure from that point on. After ten years in the union I began my own business and opted out of the union so its rules no longer dictated my every move!
God blessed our company and I was able to hire some family members and train them the way I wanted them to work.