During the years when I was in the Union, it seemed like it was constant contention. Growing up on the farm, I never knew what a Union was. While I was working for my first contractor a representative of the Union came around and told me I should be in the Union. Some years later I found him to be a pretty good guy.
The problem lay in the fact that to join the Union required two current members of the Union to recommend you. Another hindrance was the requirement of an initiation fee, which I didn’t have. The latter instance proved to be a moot point since none of the local members wanted to recommend me. I believe they felt that they didn’t want any more members.
The solution for me at the time was to pay a monthly fee as a work permit. We left it that way and I kept working. Then I was sent to work in another area of the state on a Government job program.
I could never agree with some of the work tactics that Union men used on a job. There was a pervasive practice of working as slow as you could to make the job last. They referred to the practice as “job security.” I felt that since the Union was not paying my wages – the boss was. I decided it was my responsibility to work as hard as I could and do as good a job as I knew how.
So it was, one day on the job as we were traveling from site to site, I had not been issued a vehicle by the contractor and I was using my personal car. The inevitable happened and I was notified that I must meet the local executive board on the charges that I was transporting company tools in my personal vehicle.
It was true. I had been taking a short 4 foot ladder from site to site in my vehicle. I was a little worried that when I had started working on the project and they had asked for my card number, I had showed them the latest receipt for my work permit. Since it was a different local they didn’t seem to notice the difference between my work permit and a Union card. I approached my foreman. He said to talk to the business agent in my home town. So I did.
It turned out that he was the man that had first approached me about joining the Union. He said; “Thirteen year apprenticeship is long enough. Have you got $50.00?” I did, so he made out a temporary card for me and I went back to the other Union board and met with them.
Boy was I nervous! They might take me into the back room and give me fifty lashes, or chop off my finger. As it turned out, they just assessed a fine on me. I paid the fine and went back to work. When I told the foreman what happened he apologized. He said he should have given me a pickup to drive. They gave me a pick up and the foreman gave me a set of tools to compensate for the fine. Included in the tools was a small set of socket wrenches. They proved to be very convenient. I use that set to this day.
Twenty years later I left the Union. But that’s another story.