Organized Labor Rage
Patterson obsessed about making the parts for his company cheaper. They were loosing money and business because the competition was beating them on the cost of labor to manufacture the part.
For months he worked tirelessly over the objection and suspicion of his fellow union brothers.
It was break time and Patterson took his place at the break table. It was quiet except for break room chatter from the other tables.
Walter Suggs, a forklift driver, sat across the table from Patterson. A discussion began about Patterson’s efforts in cost and labor reduction. All were suspicious of his motives.
“Patterson,” Suggs said biting into a donut and sipping his coffee. “You have any idea what you are doing?”
“I’m trying to make our parts cheaper so we can get some of the business back that we lost to Japan,” Patterson said.
“Let the company do it,” Suggs said. “They got us into this mess. It ain’t our job to get them out of it.”
“That’s where you and I differ,” Patterson said. “If we don’t beat the competition, we’ll all be looking for jobs.”
“That’s all a bunch of crap,” Suggs said. “The company has filled your head full of crap and you’re playin’ into their hands. You might as well be company. You’re not union, that’s for sure. What did they do offer you a foreman‘s job to stab your union brothers in the back.”
“I’m for keeping my job, yours, and everybody else’s,” Patterson said.
“The way you’re doing things it will take less men to run the department,” Suggs said. “You’re putting men on the streets.”
“If we get the customers back that we lost and get new ones,” Patterson said. “We won’t be able to keep up with the orders. The company will have to add jobs.”
“All these companies are in cahoots,” Suggs said. “They got this all planed. They’re regulating the market behind the scenes. They’re just trying to break the unions.”
“I don’t see it that way,” Patterson said.
“Of course you don’t,” Suggs said. “You’re a back-stabbin’ company suck-up.” Patterson got up from the break table. “You guys can stay here with this company suckie if ya want to, but careful of what you say, he’ll run to the company with it right away.”
Everybody except Patterson rose from the break table.
“You guys don’t believe that stuff do you?” Patterson said. “We’ve worked together for years. You know me better than that.”
Everyone left the break area. Birch stayed behind. “Look, Pat,” he said. “You knew what you was getting yourself into when you started this whole thing.”
“But if somebody doesn’t do something we’ll all be out of jobs,” Patterson said.
“I know that, you know that, the company knows that, the union knows that,” Birch said. “The only ones that don’t know that are people the union thrives on; guys like Suggs, who can’t think beyond what the union tells him to think.”
“In spite of what you or anyone else thinks, all I care about is making more parts cheaper so we can keep our jobs,” Patterson said. “I know it’s all a power struggle between the union and company. They both want to control us heart and soul. Nobody is controlling my thinking, no one!”
“I know that,” Birch said. “But the union is full of crazies, just watch your back.”
Patterson walked to the bathroom and used the urinal. He washed his hands and as he did thought about all the things said at the break table. He wondered if the alienation he was experiencing from his workmates was worth it. He thought ’I’d rather have alienated workmates that no workmates at all. Someday they’ll thank me.’
Patterson dried his hands at the towel dispenser and walked from the bathroom lost in thought. As he stepped beyond the guardrail that protected the exit of the bathroom he heard the motor of a fork lift accelerate. He looked to his left. It was Suggs behind the wheel of his forklift bearing down and speeding toward him. Patterson’s eyes widened as Suggs steered toward him. Patterson stepped behind the guardrail. The right fork from the forklift caught the post of the guardrail. The rear of the forklift violently swung around and crashed into a tub of parts. The tub thudded to the floor on its side. Parts sprayed everywhere. The forklift continued on its uncontrolled course and slammed against an I beam. The entire building shook as if an earthquake occurred.
Workers hurried from every direction to see what occurred.
Suggs looked at everybody for approval. In his mind it was a good thing he tried to do.
There was a collective and unspoken assessment of the evidence by the workers. There was little doubt as to what occurred. Patterson nearly lost his life for something he cared deeply about, their jobs.
Birch stood near the forklift where Suggs was still sitting behind the wheel in a euphoric state expecting adulation. “What is wrong with us?” Birch yelled. “Look what almost happened. If you think this is okay, you got a problem; all of you!”
Patterson leaned stunned against the exit from the bath room. He held out a shaking hand toward Suggs and pointed. His voice quivered, “He tried to hit me with a forklift!”