December 11, 2002, was culture shock for the former employees of Trinity who were hired by Enerfab. To start with, Enerfab was located in Cincinnati on Spring Grove Avenue, off the Mitchell Ave. exit on I-75. Most of us were from the north of Cincinnati, so it was a long drive in heavy traffic we weren’t used to. We parked in an open gravel lot across the street from the plant. Although I had no problems parking there, several people said their cars were broken into or vandalized. The plant we reported to work at that morning was huge. Yet the head shop itself was small, the presses and flanging machines were squeezed into a single aisle. Everything was jammed together, without much space to maneuver around. And the floor was cluttered with so much junk you could hardly walk.
Everybody was disgruntled. Including the Enerfab employees already working there. They were afraid we would take their jobs. So there was much friction, and not only with the original employees of the head shop. To the rest of the people working there we were new hires, and got treated as such. We were totally lost, and they had no desire to help us out. We weren’t even in the Boilermakers Union yet, we were still probationary. So by helping us out they felt they would be hurting their union brothers.
And boy, did we need help. We didn’t know where anything was at. We were totally reliant on them to show us how their machines worked. Their forklifts were different from what we were used to. They used a forklift with forks on an arm that telescoped forward from the side.
None of us had ever used such a forklift before, and it took some time to learn how to operate them. One press operator, Randy V., never did get used to it. All the dies for the presses were kept on racks just outside the garage door. Whenever Randy had to change dies with this forklift, he always dropped them. I think he finally got other people to change dies for him, I don’t believe he ever got the hang of running their forklifts.
I had a few mishaps, too. That led to my first encounter with Lonnie F. He worked in shipping and was out in the yard when I took a full scrap hopper out to empty it into a dumpster. I let the hopper slide off my forks down into the dumpster. Lonnie saw it happen, so he came over and said to me, “What are you, some kind of a dumbass?” Then he rigged a chain to the forks and the hopper and dragged it up out of the dumpster.
But actually I didn’t have much reason to use a forklift. With everything being in one aisle, we moved the heads in and out of the machines with an overhead crane. The only time I needed a forklift, other than to empty a scrap dumpster, was to take a finished head outside or to bring in a pressed head to work on. This system had its advantages. It really cut down on the handling marks. It is easy to scratch up heads with a forklift. So if you hardly ever touch a head with a forklift, then there are a lot less scratches and you have a much-better looking product. This system wouldn’t work at the plant in Sharonville, since it was a much bigger operation. But for the head shop at Enerfab, which was crammed into a single bay, it worked.
Everything was crowded. We were a lot of people for their head shop to absorb all at once. The break room was filled. The locker room was overflowing. The parking lot was crammed. They were forcing two work forces into an area where there had only been one. So that first day, and many after, were a shock to the system. And not just for me. Everybody was depressed. But we hung on.
Except for Ron N. He disappeared after 3 days. That’s all he lasted. Mark L. had told us the transition was going to be difficult. He said eventually we would end up back at the plant in Sharonville. Enerfab wasn’t closing our plant, or selling it. But in the meantime we had to work at their plant on Spring Grove. Supposedly, Enerfab got a tax break from Hamilton County for bringing jobs in. That’s why we had to work there instead at the plant in Sharonville. For a while, anyway. But Ron was having none of it. After 3 days at Spring Grove, he told Mark L. he was going back to work at the plant in Sharonville, and if he didn’t like it he could fire him. So Ron was the first to return to Sharonville. But the rest of us had a longer wait.