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by wavpeac

Another Day in the Blue Collar Life

5:29 am in Economy, Employment, Labor by wavpeac

Electrician installing wiring indoors using a lift; note the safety harness. (photo: Belvoir Army Engineers via Flickr)

Fear. Today’s post is about fear. How it eats at you. My husband isn’t worried about whether his boss invited him to a golf date. He’s not worried about a merger, or whether or not his boss liked his work. Nope. Last night he was worried about his life. Again. This post will tell the story he told me last night and help you understand the fear he faces today as he goes off to work.

I wasn’t going to post so soon, since it’s on the heels of my post not even a week ago, but this is truth. This documents how often these issues rise. We talk about torture, the effect of prolonged fear. I have started to wonder about how blue collar guys are perceived, some of their quirks, the “Archie Bunker” syndrome. As a therapist with 20 years of experience working with traumatized people, child hood abuse, sexual abuse and domestic violence, trained in trauma treatment and personality disorders, (marriage between trauma and personality, oh yes) I have begun to wonder how this fear affects the whole “trade” and whether or not it might contribute to some of the negative traits associated with blue collar workers.

So last night, as I arrived home after doing my men’s group, my husband tells me about his day. He’s talking fast and he has a lot to tell me about tonight. There is an urgency to his story, but I don’t think he even knows this himself. I notice his intensity but I can’t tell yet, why. He tells me that they are having him work on the roof of the building he is working on. He tells me his frustration about being up two stories, the cold. (though this week’s temps are closer to freezing instead of sub zero).

I can’t figure out yet, why he is so intense. He says he’s frustrated because they told the head foremen about a code problem, knowing this day was coming. He explains that he can’t get to the wiring on the roof. There is no easy way to access the work he needs to do. The only way to wire it, is to go on the roof and work this way. He says this is a code issue because the inspectors must have easy access and the only way they will be able to inspect his work is if they climb on the roof. The inspectors might require that they fix this problem and he’s mad that they didn’t fix it now, so that he could work more safely. But of course, they will not spend the money unless they have to. Safety will not figure into the reasoning. His view of course, is very logical.

My husband is frustrated because he had tried to head this problem off way back last summer. (okay, I get that it’s cold, he saw a problem long before it was a problem and he was ignored…this happens ALL the time, I still can’t figure out, the tone in his voice, the urgency and pressure behind his speech.) Then he tells me “I slipped and fell when I was on the roof”. He goes on to say “It’s really slick up there, snow from last weekend, melting, rubber roof, no safety harness, nothing to attach to. It’s a two-story drop to cement. I would be dead if I fell”.

Now I know. He goes on to say, that his fear of being laid off keeps him from complaining. He said he talked to his boss about his concerns. Another trade put some cones up on the edge of the roof with a caution tape. Nice…caution tape helps remind you where the edge is, but it won’t stop you from falling. He says they want this done yesterday. He says, when my foremen saw me he said, “Are you guys done yet?”  . . . Read the rest of this entry →

by wavpeac

The Blue Collar Life

7:10 am in Economy, Employment, Labor by wavpeac

A construction worker in Chicago, three days before Christmas, 2005. (photo: gnevets88 via Flickr)

This morning my husband got up at 5:00 a.m. to work outside in 7 degree F temperatures. He sat on the end of the couch, head in his hands sipping his coffee telling me how much he hates his job. How much it’s wearing him out. He makes $29.00 dollars an hour. Roughly $60,000 a year. He’s a union electrician. His health care premiums come out of his pay check; it is NOT subsidized by his “company.” His disability comes out of his pay check. It is NOT subsidized by his company.

I don’t think most people understand this about the unions. These men get paid what they do because they are subsidizing their own care. Men in suits thinks he makes too much money. Men in suits think he doesn’t deserve health care or disability, that he’s just a body to use and abuse.

They tell the men to talk about safety on their own time, not to take up time they could be “producing” to discuss “safety issues”. They don’t want to spend money on his safety or breaks for his aching back or freezing fingers. My husband worries if he takes too much time to warm up that they might lay him off. The men in suits know he is afraid, they even tease him about lay offs from warm offices when he walks through to take his 15-minute break. The high cost of labor, entitlement. The men in suits make you focus on the unions with their high paying jobs while they sit in offices pushing pencils making eight times the amount that my husband makes. Risking far less in stress and safety than my husband. And complaining about the high cost of labor.

My husband comes from a long line of blue collar workers. His grandfather was a World War II vet who gave part of his leg to the cause. His father a Vietnam War vet lost to alcoholism. My husband was a fatherless boy. In many ways he paid the ultimate price. A price that continues. He says repeatedly, “It’s the middle class that built this country, NOT the rich, and it’s the middle class that sends its children to war.”  . . . Read the rest of this entry →