Dude, I Just Work Here – Day 2

The following is a recap of my adventures and experiences while out on business continuity assignment for my employer. In brief summary, there is currently a work stoppage on the part of union employees in the Northeast region. As a result, I’ve been assigned to travel to the upstate New York and perform some of the duties of the striking employees.
My goal is to make this a running blog and post as often as possible.

(August 9, 2011)

Not This Again
Day 2 of my work stoppage assignment was not unlike Day 1. We were greeted at the garage by a collection of picketing union workers, and we were once again delayed from actually entering the garage by picketers walking very casually and slowly in the middle of the street.

Once we were inside, we received our jobs for the day and headed out. Once again we started being tailed by union guys in a car. Once again we decide to employ our ‘drive for miles’ tactic. The resolve of our shadow team, however, did not falter. My partner and I drove for over 120 miles with no avail. These guys would just not quit. I can, however, say that downtown Albany – yes, Albany – is actually quite nice, and the architecture there is stunning.

Resigned to the fact there was no way to lose our tail, my partner and I decided enough was enough and we set the GPS to our customer’s location. Immediately the butterflies from Monday morning were back. The idea of leading a group of loud and visible protestors to a customer’s house made me sick. My anxiety shot through the roof, and I was feeling queasy as we exited the interstate. It’s bad enough to have to deal with the verbal abuse, the taunts, and the glares from the union people, but to take that crap to the customer’s doorstep is, in my opinion, out of bounds.

Mysterious Ways
The GPS was trying to locate our position as we exited the interstate, which just so happens to exit traffic into a rotunda. Not knowing exactly which way to go, I stayed with the easier flow and went right. It was at that moment the GPS kicked in and advised us we should have gone left. “Dammit!” I thought. “This whole situation is going from bad to worse.”

I pulled into an open parking lot and did a casual loop to turn around and get back to the main road, this time heading in the correct direction. As I circled around our trail car also had to do the same. Serendipitously, there was a third car leaving the parking lot at the same time, and it happened to find its way between our van and the trail car. As I looked up, I noticed the light for us was green. “No way! Really?” I said out loud. With about 20 feet to the intersection, the light turned yellow. My partner sat up in her seat. “Go! Go! Go!” she exclaimed. I punched the accelerator and sure enough we made the light while our shadow was left in waiting.

The feelings of nausea and anxiety were immediately replaced with those of relief and celebration. We lost them! After two and a half hours of crazy, monotonous driving, we were finally free. Not five minutes earlier I had made a commented we had won Day 1 of this game the union was choosing to play, and it seemed Day 2 would go to the team dressed in red. Losing our tail at the light was akin to Flutie’s Hail Mary pass from 1984. It was miraculous, last second win.

I also have to mention that as we exited the interstate, I said a little prayer asking God to please, please, please show us a way out of the mess I felt we were heading towards. It turns out the mix up with the GPS and going the wrong way actually ended up being the right way after all. He really does work in mysterious ways, and His grace can only be described as awesome.

A Little Better
Once we were able to carry on with our work, my partner and I found we were able to do it a little better than we did on Day 1. There were still challenges we had to face, not to mention delays as a result of the torrential rain the passed over the Kingston area, but as with all things, we felt our confidence increase as we went from job to job. We know this will continue to trend in the positive, and assuming we’re still here next week, there’s no doubt in my mind the daily tasks will feel very commonplace for us.

Getting back to the worksite was also much better than it was on Day 1. Thanks to the aforementioned downpour, many of the picketers had dispersed by the time we made it back to the garage. The few union folk that remained seemed almost indifferent to us and they somewhat solemnly moved out of the way so we could pull in.

In speaking with non-union workers who work with those that are currently on strike, it turns out the majority of them really prefer not to have to go out and picket. In many ways, they’re in the same situation I’m in of having to go do a job out of requirement. I can only imagine the repercussions they’d face if they did not show up to picket and protest, and if there’s any empathy from me to them, it’s to the union employees that would much rather be back at work than losing a paycheck and standing out there in the rain for hours upon hours.

Soap Box
That being said, there still remains the small, vocal minority that thrives on times like these. As someone put it, it’s the people that are normally assholes being given the opportunity to be justified assholes. And speaking collectively, I’m completely baffled by the tactics being employed by the CWA. In addition to picketing in front of a garage where there’s very little through traffic (i.e. you picket to bring attention to your cause, and if there’s no one there to see you, it’s no different than picketing in the middle of an empty field), the union is also asking customers to boycott the company.

So let me get this straight. Employee of Company A is asking the customers of Company A to boycott the company and switch to the competitor that is Company B. They want this so they can keep as-is their current jobs with Company A. My question is, if all the customers are now with Company B, what job is there to do in Company A? Seems to me CWA should stand for ‘Currently Without Aptitude’. Their logic is simply illogical.

As for their tactic of following us to our job sights, the cloud of intimidation has lifted and I see more clearly that those guys following us don’t really care to be there either. They’re pretty much going through the motions. One of the guys on my team went so far as to tell his tail, “Listen, guys. There’s nobody out here, so if you want to take off, we won’t mention anything to the other union guys.” It’s just a game for them, one that reminds me of the old ‘Wolf and Sheepdog’ cartoons. In fact, the next time I see the picketers, which I will from now on refer to affectionately as ‘my fan club’, I think I just may look them in the eye and say, “Good morning, Ralph. Have a good day.”

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