Flanging 74

Enough about polishing.  This blog is named Flanging.  So back to flanging.  In the early 90’s Trinity got overwhelmed with work.  So much that Geoff L. asked me if I would run a flanging machine again.  It was to be on a part-time basis.  I would still be classified as a polisher.  In our contract, temporary assignments are allowed, with the stipulation that the worker will be paid whichever wage rate is higher, his customary hourly wage or the hourly wage of the job he is to be doing.  Since flanging paid a higher wage, this was quite a raise for me.  I had taken a large pay cut to get onto first shift by transferring into polishing, from going to the top of the pay scale in flanging to the bottom of the pay scale in polishing.  Although I had reached near the top of the polishing pay scale by that time, it was still a raise.  So I agreed.

John was happy to see me go.  Not that he disliked me that much.  But there had never  been enough work in polishing for two people.  There was too much for one person and not enough to keep two people busy.  Which meant we spent a lot of time cleaning up and doing other odd jobs when we were slow, and worked a lot of overtime when we were busy.  It was boom or bust.  So when I started operating a flanging machine again, John stayed busy polishing, and got all the overtime he desired.  And when he got too overwhelmed, I went back to polishing to help out.  But most of the time I stayed on a flanging machine.

Since I was a temporary transfer into the flanging department, I was assigned the easiest jobs.  Also, all of my old skills came right back to me.  The old adage ‘once you learn how to ride a bike you never forget’ applies to flanging, also.  And I enjoyed operating a flanging machine.  I never transferred out of the flanging department because I didn’t want to operate a flanging machine, it was to get onto first shift, which I had felt was so necessary at that time with raising my two sons on my own.  So I was happy operating a flanging machine again.

The temporary transfer lasted about 6 months or so.  Work slowed down.  To give Geoff L. his due, once this happened he told me he appreciated me helping out when the company needed me, and offered me an opportunity to transfer back into the flanging department.  By this time there had been at least one retirement, I forget who, so I would have had enough seniority to remain on first shift.  Besides, I had remarried by this time, and was no longer raising my boys on my own.  Also, by this time they were getting older, and didn’t need such close supervision.  My oldest had graduated high school, and my youngest was in 8th grade.  So I was tempted.  But I declined.  Although Dale B. was gone by this time, Geoff L. was still plant supervisor. I was still financial secretary for our union local.  I was sure all the old antagonisms would resurface.  So I declined.

Two things happened to change my mind.  In 1994 I resigned as financial secretary.  I had been doing it for 7 years, and was tired of it.  The second thing to happen was Geoff L. retired.  He was replaced by Mark L.  And Mark L. made it plain he wanted me back on a flanging machine.

Like before, it started with a temporary transfer.  I was put on the trimmer, machining small heads.  Then I was moved to a flanging machine as we got busier.  After several months, Mark called me in the office and asked me if I would transfer back into the flanging department.  I agreed.  He sealed the deal by giving me a yellow Trinity golf shirt.  When I came out of the meeting the union president, Joe D. at the time, asked what I had decided, and I showed him the shirt.  He was upset that I had moved back into flanging, mostly because I had more seniority than him, and at least one other operator on first shift.  More about that in the next post.

I am forever grateful to Mark L. for getting me back into flanging.  Seven years later, when Enerfab bought us in 2002, only half the workers were rehired.  Enerfab was in need of flanger operators and press operators.  Very few other people were offered jobs.  They already had enough polishers, they didn’t need another one.  John R. had retired by then, and they let go the polisher he had trained.  So I most likely would have been out of a job in 2002 if I hadn’t moved back into flanging.

One final note about John R.  We parted on good terms.  Just before I transferred back into flanging I went with him to fetch some boxes of polishing belts out of stock.  In the stock room he took out his pocket knife to slice open a box, I forget the reason.  But his knife cut right through the box and stabbed into his thigh.  The blade sunk deep, up to the hilt.  He yanked it out, and his pants leg was soon soaked with blood.  He turned pale and started trembling.  He was in his late 50’s to early 60’s by then.  I told him to sit down and I would go for help.  But he insisted on walking on his own.  So I took his arm and helped him walk to the office.  He was grateful for that.  That’s a good memory.  For me, not especially so for John, I’m sure.


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