The Break Up

Last week, I broke up with my electrical contractor. I need to see what other contractors offer and I want to look out for my best training interests.

My manager was pissed: I was punished for being the rat fleeing a sinking ship; or I was some kind of traitor because I wasn’t blithely waiting around. He called at the end of the day last Friday said, “I had work for you on Monday, but I heard you want to go to another shop. Which is it?” It felt like it was too late for me to accept bona fide electrical work from him. If he truly had a work assignment for me, I would have happily taken it. However, just the day before, he told me: 1) there wasn’t much on the horizon, but he’d let me know as soon as there was; 2) three other company apprentices were sitting out and waiting for work to pick up; 3) there were over 60 apprentices waiting for work through the training center; 4) the field is flooded with electricians right now because travelers are clamoring for a huge project in our area. He made it sound like I had no other choice but to stay loyal and wait. Read the rest of this entry »


On the Hook

This is the first week I’ve been “on the hook” and I don’t like it one bit. Work has slowed down to the point of my construction manager telling me, “We have no work for you, but we’ll call you as soon as something comes up.” Basically, I am receiving an unannounced furlough of indeterminate length or, through different lenses: unpaid vacation days. I like the sound of the latter much better. This is known as “staying on the hook” or “being on the hook”. Even though it would be easier and more comfortable to go with the flow and marry myself to this shop, I’m shaking myself outside my comfort zone and begging the apprentice training center to rotate me to a different contractor. Besides, I was never good at sitting around, waiting for the phone to ring! Read the rest of this entry »


Gruff Love

Recently, I spent about two weeks working with the same journeyman. He looked like an overweight and scruffy version of Tom Selleck or Burt Reynolds. (ok, really – he just sported the 70’s mustache and had a full head of brown hair) He loved his cigarettes, couldn’t drink coffee – opted for hot cocoa instead – and when he was in a joking mood, would hold his pot belly and say, “Yup, this has been honestly bought and paid for!” In his moodier and more melodramatic moments (which hit frequently and without prediction), he either yelled at pieces of equipment that weren’t installing easily, vented his low opinion of our office bidder/estimator or grumbled about how tired he was of “all this shit.” He was a process-out-loud kind of guy who got frazzled when all the variables of our trade didn’t pull together smoothly. And I couldn’t quite gauge his humor. One minute, he fervently told me he cared more about accuracy than speed. The next minute, he’d stomp into my work area with a scowl and say, “We’re not crafting a watch, you know!” or “Making a career out of that or what?” At the end of our project, he handed me a cable termination tool and said, “Here! This is for you. You can probably use it soon.” Then he stomped off. Read the rest of this entry »


The Whiz Quiz

Last week after work, I peed in a cup for a $50 bonus. It’s my fourth time, which means I’ve earned $150 so far (no bonus pay the first time). My union and my employer must be serious when they tout their Drug Free Workplace Policy. We call them “whiz quizzes” and only get the $50 once the results yield a clean urine sample.

Supposedly, the test-positive rate in our industry/union is less than 1%. (I think this is for our region and not nationwide.) Any individual who tests positive is obligated to undergo an evaluation and treatment program.

For me last week, I was accompanied by a co-worker. Both of us had just returned to the shop from vacation and both of us were handed a slip of paper with instructions, locations and the “random” box checked. Read the rest of this entry »