The Enerfab employees who transferred to our Sharonville plant had to learn how to operate our machines. But we had to adapt to their way of doing things. One of the biggest changes we had to adapt to were lead men. The Steelworkers Union had sharply separated the office employees from the shop employees. Our old contracts forbade lead men. You were either in management or were working on the floor. But the Boilermakers Union allowed lead men. So we now had lead men. The original lead men from Spring Grove were Joe L. and Tom K., while the original lead men from the our plant were Gary B. and Curtis W. and Dennis B. There was only one lead man on second shift, Doug R., a former Brighton employee. The reason for this being not only was second shift smaller, but there were no former Spring Grove employees on second, they were all on first. As the years went by, this distinction between the Spring Grove employees and the old Brighton employees faded away as we eventually merged into a single work force. Just like Mark L. had said we would.
I did not want to be a lead man. It was a lot of responsibility for only a little more pay. Not only were you responsible for your own work, but also the work of everybody in your department. Curtis W. was in charge of the first shift flanging department. So anytime a flanger operator ran into difficulties, Curtis had to fix his screw-up. If the piece was so messed up he couldn’t fix it himself, he determined where it needed to go, either back to the press or to a welder or to the polisher or into the scrap dumpster. Of course, he couldn’t make all these decisions by himself, say if a piece needed to be scrapped he would have to get the foreman, Bruce K., to agree with him. But if a problem could be resolved among the departments without involving the office, it was. This was a much better way of running the shop than how we had done it before, without lead men.
As long as you had good lead men. Tom resigned after his wife died, leaving him with 12 children to raise on his own. Everyone understood, that was enough pressure for any man, he didn’t need the added headache of being a lead man. In fact, the company allowed him to take off from work whenever he needed to tend to family business. At first that was quite often, but lately as his older children could help out more and more, he has missed less and less work. Then Doug quit simply because he didn’t like being a lead man. I don’t blame him. As I said, I wouldn’t want to be one. But others took their places. Jerry W. took over Tom K.’s position. And Don M. took over Doug’s position. And there have been other lead men.
The lead men come in a half-hour early to prepare the work for the day. So they get 2 and a half hours more overtime every week than the rest of the shop. On first shift they hold a daily meeting with the shop foreman, Bruce K., and also the maintenance supervisor, Matt H., and the quality control supervisor, Rick S., to discuss problems. On second shift the lead man comes in a half-hour early to meet with Bruce and find out what kind of problems are going on.
You are never too old to learn new tricks. Having lead men has worked out well. Brighton should have been doing it years ago. Under the old system, a shop employee had to leave the union to take a management position. With lead men, a shop worker could do this and remain in the union. It has worked out well for everybody.