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Read a piece in USA Today (last night) about how the 'low skill, high pay' manufacturing jobs that afforded `uneducated' workers with a middle class lifestyle are going the way of the Dodo.

This really frosts my ass because there's a lot more to machining than our self-professed `betters' know.

When the newly appointed head of your [G.E.] division (not much older than myself at the time), while taking a guided tour of the shop, walks up to a Bridgeport and comments "Nice looking drill press!" It's time to worry...true incident that took place right in front of my astonished young eyes!

Like medicine, it takes years to become competent machinist but unlike say surgery, machining involves ALL of the senses...in many respects we need to know as much if not more than MD's to do the job properly.

Metals/materials are like diseases and each one has different characteristics. You don't just slap a cutter in and have at it--unless you have a death wish.

You have to be able to gage surface finish by eye, measure by feel and the sound of the cut tells you so much about what's going on that a deaf person can not be a machinist! Sometimes smell betrays a problem before you see or hear it! (Although this is rare because most shops reek all the time.)

Like builders, we need to be able to successfully interpret blueprints and have a working knowledge of the engineering symbols that define datum points and tolerance zones.

Like surgeons, the only way to become proficient at our job is by doing the work. Unlike doctors, we also need to know programming code so we can adjust the programs to make good parts.

There's a lot of truth to the old assertion that a good machinist can do anything, and I do mean anything as we are quite often called upon to do the impossible with next to nothing...and do it on time too!

Thus when people like myself, who worked their way up from the shop floor, hear management types belittle our profession or take our skills for granted that we get pissed!

Nasty, dirty, stinking, thankless job made more so by ignorant college grads who blithely think 'anyone can do it'...fuckers!

Worse is reading in the media a description of our profession that makes us look like overpaid morons...just because a degree in the trade isn't offered, which is why the pay sucks. In this respect I would point out that the folks at GM we're the exception rather than the rule, most job shops pay spit and always have...for competitive reasons ironically enough.

Every finished good you touch or the machine that makes it, comes from a machine shop, bar nothing!

The real deal; machining is labor intensive. A Chinese machinist has to know the same things US machinists do, they just live in a country that pays them less to know it. There are no `college educated' machinists because the only way to learn the trade is on the shop floor.

Trade school can teach you the basics and provides some hands on but like most professions, you don't really appreciate what it takes to do the job until you do it every day, all day.

Which leads us to sports figures that many think are worth every nickel of their multimillion dollar salaries...for playing a fuckin' game!

If a sports figure maintains a five hundred average (only fucks up half the time) they're a legend. If you fuck up a handful of two-cent parts on the shop floor you'll be looking for someplace else to work. Of course job shops aren't sports franchises. They often quote the jobs so close that they cannot afford lost time or junk...none.

Then there are the hand tools YOU need to buy just to do the job. Filling a machinist's chest is about triple the cost of a mechanics because of all of the precision measuring equipment we need to personally own.

So much for the 'low skill/high wage' middle class. Even working for G.E. I never made more than $30k on the shop floor.

I worked in a `job shop' for most of 2004 and made a shade over $25k. I worked four ten hour days with one eighteen minute break (the only time you were off your feet) for lunch...running three machining centers at a time! (so you needed roller skates to keep all three running.)

Again, the inexperienced make piles of junk. You can pork a part by loading it wrong or putting too much pressure on the vise...but any idiot can do that.

Now try it with three different jobs that all have specific ways they must be loaded and flipped to come out right. It's a lot to keep in your head while your running between machines that have a 20 second cycle time and two or three stations to load and unload before restarting the cycle.

Oh how we longed for the days of one man, one machine, which is how it used to be in the old days.

Try and wrap your head around the concept that if it's man-made, the product or the machine/tools used to make the product came from a machine shop.

Yet since the trade employed so many, the skill was considered `common' and it's practitioners possessed of no more than `ordinary' talent, which led to the belief that `anyone' could do it.

Wrong.

But this is neither here or there as machining has become a trade that you can no longer make a living at.  I recently received two calls from headhunters and both [temp positions] paid less than I make [from my steady job] driving executive sedan...how sad is that? I can make more money driving a car than I can employed in one of the most difficult professions out there!

This brings us to a larger problem good citizen. With the bean counters amongst us off-shoring anything that even smacks of production (long term, steady work.) Where doe this leave the displaced workers and more importantly, new entries into the workforce?

People who can't find work must either seek assistance, money extracted from an ever shrinking pool of people still fortunate enough to be working or they embark on a campaign of taking what they need...sometimes doing both.

Have you looked in the classified section of your local paper lately? The help-wanted section here is tiny, less than a single page where I live. Look a little closer. Are most of the open positions low skill/low pay? Nearly half of the listings are for wait staff in my local paper with a circulation of 125,000.

There is one machine shop looking for help...the same one I worked like a slave for in 2004. Did I mention that fifteen guys went in and out that door during my year there? I made it `til raise time, where instead of giving me a raise they hired three new guys (who were gone in a month) to replace me.

This neck of the woods is loaded with shops. The Northeast used to be heavily invested in defense work. These days the shops all live and die with the semiconductor market.

This is why you can't make a living machining. The production jobs are gone. All that is left is the small quantity, quick turn-around stuff that the buyers want for nothing...so the shops pay you spit because they aren't making anything themselves.

The race to the bottom is almost done. The loud splat you'll hear will be our economy falling flat on its face. That's what happens when you cut out the backbone of a society, it collapses like puddle of jelly it is.

The really bad news is we don't have the luxury of going back to the farm, not only is there no money to be made there but the farm itself was chopped up and turned into a subdivision.

This kind of compounds the problem of finding something to feed our starving children.

Sorry for the rant but as you can see reporting such as the piece I read last night really gets under my skin.

Ignorance kills.

Thanks for letting me inside your head,

Gegner

Originally posted to Gegner on Mon Jan 02, 2006 at 05:42 PM PST.

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Comment Preferences

  •  I am not sure I agree ... (4.00)
    ...with your idea that machinists must know more than doctors, but otherwise I'm with you.

    My stepfather, who taught wood shop, metal shop and drafting for 40 years during the era when public schools still offered such courses, always complained that the counselors sent the dregs to his classes. Not that he didn't get to teach some smart, talented kids, too. But vocational education was considered second tier, a corner to put the troublemakers and those clearly not bound for college, a sort of manual arts holding place until they dropped out or scraped by with a diploma.

    He taught me good skills I still use today, one of which is detecting the flaws and poor workmanship to be found in so much of what passes for craftsmanship in furniture and house construction these days.

    But, of course, if nobody pays as much for most of those skills anymore, so what's the point of teaching them? It's a rare school district that includes them anywhere in the curriculum nowadays.

    I don't think the race to the bottom is quite done. We've got five years, or perhaps even ten, before we're leveled out and a Chinese wage looks good. I pity the generations that follow mine.

    •  Not low-paying. (none)
      There is no demand for this cirriculum because we teach our children to be lawyers and MBAs.  Fact is, a non-union machinist can get $25/hour easily.  One reason is because there are so few good ones left.  The next generation doesn't want to get "dirty."  (Fact is, a modern machine shop is practically sterile.)

      "Out here in the middle, where the center's on the right, and the ghost of William Jennings Bryan preaches every night..."

      by Nineteen Kilo on Mon Jan 02, 2006 at 06:35:52 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  This is true (4.00)
        A fellow like myself skilled in all disciplines CAN make good money on a contract basis...but nobody want to own my 50 year old butt...they just want my help to get them over the hump then it's out the door again.

        Parties divide, movements unite.

        by Gegner on Mon Jan 02, 2006 at 06:44:19 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  I hate to say this, but... (none)
          Come on down to Houston.  We are DYING for good machinists.  E-mail me and I will send you some contacts.

          One caveat:  Houston sucks.  It's over-run by right wing jackasses who prefer ignorance -and it's offspring poverty- over "socialistic" public education.  These people all want to go back to the 1890s.  And when they get thier wish, they will blame librulls for the devastation.

          "Out here in the middle, where the center's on the right, and the ghost of William Jennings Bryan preaches every night..."

          by Nineteen Kilo on Mon Jan 02, 2006 at 06:48:55 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  I, like many, find myself (none)
            'stuck' with a wife who is very close to her family and has a good career here...So I'm the one biting the bullet and catching whatever comes my way.

            I'd Love to move someplace warm....more snow in the forecast tonight and I hate snow!

            If my circumstances change I'll drop you an e-mail, thanks for offering!

            Parties divide, movements unite.

            by Gegner on Mon Jan 02, 2006 at 07:20:14 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

  •  Bravo, brother (none)
    I don't know who these sneering asses think built this country. The obvious contempt with which the chattering class regards workers sickens me.

    The same can be said of the attitude towards farmers. I wish some of these idiots would try that sometime. It's not quite like watering your geraniums. You have to study weather, soils, markets, biology. You work outside in lousy weather and often in dangerous conditions. Believe me, you don't succeed without being fully involved mentally and physically.

    Left and right can be just as bad in this regard. Once upon a time, the Dems were the party of the working man. But that apparently doesn't play well any more with the focus groups.

    One would think the conservatives too would show more than a sham respect for the dignity of labor. How quaint that term sounds! Like something out of the bible, which as a matter of fact admonishes us more than once that the laborer is worthy of his hire.

    •  Farming is another vital (none)
      under appreciated skill! The current pusj to globalize food is our worst nightmare come true. The subsequent reduction in wholesale prices due to a flooded marketplace will leave our domestic farmers unable to harvest their crops.

      Once again suppliers will get screwed while the middlemen rake in the bucks.

      Parties divide, movements unite.

      by Gegner on Mon Jan 02, 2006 at 06:30:26 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  And consider we have no control over, (none)
        nor any idea of really, the conditions that food is grown under, the chemicals applied, the working conditions of the laborers.
      •  Farming may not be under-appreciated for long. (4.00)
        After peak oil becomes a reality (sooner rather than later), transportation and fertilizer costs will increase, and local, organically grown produce will become more and more attractive. Rapidly growing middle class populations in China and India will result in a global increase in demand for food. This will likely lead to a increase in profitability of food production. According to a Guardian interview, Jim Rogers, co-founder of the Quantum hedge fund with George Soros a few decades ago (and brilliant investor IMHO), has this advice:
        The American dollar is a flawed currency and will collapse in value before the end of the decade, taking with it the prosperity of the American nation. Investors should be buying commodities - platinum, lead, wheat, sugar, oil, the sort of assets that haven't been fashionable for a quarter of a century or more. While you're at it, teach your children to speak Mandarin, the coming language of the 21st century. And don't encourage them to do an MBA: "Tell them to be a farmer and do a real job."

        You cannot depend upon American institutions to function without pressure. ---Martin Luther King Jr.

        by Opakapaka on Mon Jan 02, 2006 at 06:53:24 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Peak Oil (none)
          with regard to the food situation is a huge concern. Say goodbye to those $4 pineapples from Hawaii. Locally grown is how it's going to be, which decreases variety, at least for those who can't pay $15 for a head of lettuce.  

          The days of the 3,000-mile Caesar salad will end when oil prices send our economy into a tailspin.

          The trade labor positions will be required and in demand post Peak:  machinists, welders, blacksmithers(?), farmers, vets, people who know botanicals and homeopathic medicine, artisans and musicians.

          I have tried to take a more optimistic view of life post Peak. I already went through the stage of being scared witless by the "olduvai gorge" scenarios.  Christ, I'm a single girl in the city--the thought of going "back to the land" scares me a little bit. I can barely keep my house plants alive.  

          I'm just praying for a "soft landing" on this Peak Oil fallout.

          •  I'm thinking about this too. (none)
            Is it better to live on a farm, where you can grow food? Or a house with a big lot in the exurbs? Or a city where everything is within walking distance, but you have no land? I have no idea. Peak oil will likely be the biggest headache.

            That would be so Ironic, if blacksmithing made a comeback. Definitely it won't be cheap to ship products from far away, so perhaps some manufacturing would be brought back home, bringing these skilled trades back into demand.

            You cannot depend upon American institutions to function without pressure. ---Martin Luther King Jr.

            by Opakapaka on Mon Jan 02, 2006 at 08:50:32 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

          •  The scariest part of peak oil (none)
            is the uncertainty of just how much is left. Some are saying five hundred years while others are saying fifty @ current rate of consumption...which is constantly climbing.

            That said, it's difficult to determine where the 'tipping point' will be given how expensive production equipment is and the fact there is only one remaining US Machine tool Mfr who makes their product from 100% US produced parts. [Haas in Oxnard, CA.]

            The true danger of peak oil lies in the economic impact of rising energy costs. You'll likely go broke and starve to death long before we run out of gas...I know, I'm not helping.

            We could save ourselves if we altered how things get done...imagine driving a free hydrogen powered car in around two years...but that won't happen until we alter the fundamentals our society is built on...especially the one where oil is power.

            Parties divide, movements unite.

            by Gegner on Mon Jan 02, 2006 at 09:05:40 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  Oil industry (none)
              needs to be nationalized here. Every person on the planet is dependent on oil and petroleum products to a greater or lesser extent. Leaving such a vital resource to the free market is just criminal. It's like health care. Not something that should be left to the vagaries of the market, at least insofar as can be controlled by nationalization.

              Polls consistently show that Americans want money sunk into R&D for new environmental and energy-saving technologies, yet the Republicans refuse to do it. At least getting majorities of Democrats in office might start that ball rolling. It's so frustrating.

              Meanwhile, the U.S. rolls along using 20 million barrels per day. Per day! Unbelievable.

              •  Fun with math (none)
                So the US consumes 21,930,000 barrels/day of oil.

                With 1 barrel = 42 gallons, thats 8.01 billion barrels/year of oil.

                With 1 barrel of oil = $61.04, that's 488.9 billion dollars per year of oil.

                With US GDP of $11,750 billion, we spend 4.2% of all we produce on oil. Yikes!

                You cannot depend upon American institutions to function without pressure. ---Martin Luther King Jr.

                by Opakapaka on Mon Jan 02, 2006 at 11:08:23 PM PST

                [ Parent ]

    •  Conservatives won't respect labor... (4.00)
      ...as long as the blue collar class keeps voting for them out of false patriotism and homophobia.  Every shop I walk through is palstered with flags and eagles and has Limbaugh on the radio.  It's hard for me to feel bad when their Bush loving owners screw them.

      "Out here in the middle, where the center's on the right, and the ghost of William Jennings Bryan preaches every night..."

      by Nineteen Kilo on Mon Jan 02, 2006 at 06:32:35 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  You are so right! (none)
        I was taken aback at how many guys proposed nuking the Middle East without a second thought.

        Left to the bone, I called them on this and pointed out that Mohammed in the street was no more interested in dying than they were...some of them changed their tune but others gave me sidelong glances, good thing I'm a big guy.

        Parties divide, movements unite.

        by Gegner on Mon Jan 02, 2006 at 06:42:12 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  So True (4.00)
    I have worked for a company for 22 years.  I started in the factory and worked the night shift for 10 years to get my degree.  I can tell you that I am in management and doing well, but I see things very differently than my sorority society peers.

    Many I work with think a $60K plus a year salary for being a low level planner is justified, but comment about the employees from Delphi wanting higher wages (Delphi is a customer of ours) as being absurd for what they do & blame the workers for the bankruptcy.

    I value a hard, skilled days work and wish people were compensated for it like they used to be.  When I worked in the factory many families lived good lives and were able to send their kids to college.

    Today that factory is a pile of rubble.

    Somewhere, something incredible is waiting to be known---Carl Sagan

    by LibChicAZ on Mon Jan 02, 2006 at 06:15:16 PM PST

    •  I think folks who have been (none)
      in the trade a while appreciate your talent and what it took to get where you are.

      That said, You know the shop floor is one of the most unforgiving work environments there is.

      If you don't have an attitude problem when you start out, it won't be long before you develop one. The constant pursuit of perfection can really wear on you.

      Parties divide, movements unite.

      by Gegner on Mon Jan 02, 2006 at 06:38:00 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  People talk about a "creative class".... (4.00)
    historically, where do they think that "creativity" came from?  From the people down on the floors doing the work.  They haven't always been given credit, but invention and innovation have come from those who understand the process.

    What happens to us when no one can make anything anymore?

    •  The disillusioned think (none)
      think this talent will always be for sale. When the 'flat earth' becomes round once more and immigrants cease to flock to these shores...because it has become an economic wasteland the bean counters will see for themselves how 'merciful' those who can will be to those who can't.

      I'm pretty sure saying "It was our work in the first place" isn't going to cut much ice.

      Scarier still is how much defense work is being done off shore. If we ever go to war with Asia, we're screwed supply wise!

      Parties divide, movements unite.

      by Gegner on Mon Jan 02, 2006 at 06:26:55 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  exactly (4.00)
    the factory and blue collar workers are not respected at all.  When we forget their contributions we forget our history and thus our own values.
  •  I'm with you. (4.00)
    I manage 70 machine shops for an oil services company.  We are desperate for more people like me who know how a part gets made.  The last 6 candidates sent to me by (anti-)personnel couldn't tell me what a lathe does.  3 couldn't even spell it.  But they all had MBAs.

    I could go on and on, but you already hit all the important points.  Seems the next generation is a victim of Reagan-education.  Remember his little weasel adviser that said "It doesn't matter if you make potato chips or microchips."  It damn sure does.  All these Adam Smith cultists need to go back and read what he had to say about manufacturing.  It is the only thing that creates wealth.  Every other industry is dependent on manufacturing to add money for them to shuffle around.

    Still, I'll leave you with a little warning.  I'm the desk jockey you see every day trying to make your job cleaner and give you better tools.  I wear the same steel toes and safety glasses as you.  The only reason I wear a nicer shirt is because it's required by my yuppie boss.  I fight the same battles as you with MBA weenies.  So cut me some slack when I ask you to calibrate your calipers.  Every time you bitch to your union steward when I ask you a simple question while you're on break, you make both our jobs harder.

    "Out here in the middle, where the center's on the right, and the ghost of William Jennings Bryan preaches every night..."

    by Nineteen Kilo on Mon Jan 02, 2006 at 06:27:01 PM PST

    •  Peace brother (none)
      I was foreman in three shops during the early nineties then graduated into sales where I would woo the customers and quote the jobs.

      I've worked on both sides of the wall and I feel your pain.

      Parties divide, movements unite.

      by Gegner on Mon Jan 02, 2006 at 06:33:59 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Good diary (4.00)
    This is a disaster. Without a viable machine tool industry, we are toast economically.

    If we shall fail to defend the Constitution, I shall fail in the attempt.

    by spoon or no spoon on Mon Jan 02, 2006 at 06:27:46 PM PST

    •  And no one is taking (none)
      the trade, not that you can blame them. Low pay and shitty working conditions if you work for a small shop and unbelievable pressure when you work in a larger one, not that there are many of those left these days...not enough work.

      Parties divide, movements unite.

      by Gegner on Mon Jan 02, 2006 at 07:04:33 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  I've worked on both sides (none)
    and I'm here to tell you the shop worker makes the world go round.

    Once I got advanced to the office-work, talking on the phone to people needing jobs done, faxing schematics and so on . . . one of the phrases I used most often was, after looking at a schematic, . . .

    "Um . . . I think you might have an inexperienced engineer.  This won't work."

    There is all the difference in the world between school and work.  I say that as a grad student.  

    Amen, brother.

    "In the beginning the universe was created. This has been widely criticized and generally regarded as a bad move." -- Douglas Adams

    by LithiumCola on Mon Jan 02, 2006 at 06:41:51 PM PST

    •  ROFL! (none)
      I hate to tell you how many times I had to call the customer and tell them I couldn't quote the job as drawn!

      So many prints are released with missing details and if YOU miss them when you're quoting it's really bad news.

      I'm a 9th grade dropout who did four years of nights but didn't have enough credits for a degree when GE sold the comapny out from under me for the third time.

      It's the idiots that never set foot on a shop floor that think we're retards (because we work with our hands) that really piss me off.

      Parties divide, movements unite.

      by Gegner on Mon Jan 02, 2006 at 06:50:41 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  I was with you in every thing... (none)
    you had to say and gave your diary a reco. But I'd like to take issue with one small point.
    Folks follow the (billionaire owned) media's lead and bash what sports figures make, (and yes perhaps they should be more grateful), but I am not among them.
    These truly rare (unlike say MBAs</snark>) people had for decades (over one hundred years in the case of baseball players) been getting screwed along with the rest of us, until unionization arrived to get them pay commensurate with their: #1 scarcity, (the lack of availability of a resource is supposed to increase its value) #2 the shortness of the majority of their careers, #3 and most appropriately (IMHO) the 'shit-pots full' of money their exceptional skills generated for the @$#%!* owners.
    I know it's now "The billionaires vs. The millionaires", and what it says about our society's values is another discussion, but as a union laborer myself I don't begrudge them getting whatever they can fairly negotiate.
    •  Forgive me on this (none)
      Given the brief time these guys have to make a career, their pay is justified in the respect of how much they generate for their owners.

      But as far as contributing to society...I'm an odd duck here, I'd rather play sports than watch them so the salaries the owners pay these guys are a slap in the face to those of us who keep the lights on, food on the table and the trains running on time.

      Parties divide, movements unite.

      by Gegner on Mon Jan 02, 2006 at 06:54:29 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Nothing to forgive. (none)
        Wonderful diary.
      •  Spare me the violin solo (none)
        for overpaid "sports" figures, their "owners", hey I thought Lincoln freed the slaves, sports in this country is a disease. It helps no one. Enriches the few and keeps the citizens distracted from what really matters in life.

        If the citizens of this country spent one-half the time on studying politics as they do "sports" most of our society's problems would be solved.

        "Such is the irresistible nature of truth that all it asks, and all it wants, is the liberty of appearing."

        by Nestor Makhnow on Mon Jan 02, 2006 at 07:10:52 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  You speak true (none)
          I have friends who refuse to read my stories claiming they 'don't read'...yet spend hours every day studying the sports section of the paper.

          Go figure?

          Parties divide, movements unite.

          by Gegner on Mon Jan 02, 2006 at 09:38:24 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

  •  I've got one for you Gegner (none)
    I worked for a federal agency that shall remain nameless. There was a greenhouse to be built, replacing an old one. When the approved plans came down from the smart people upstairs, who had already let the contract, two of us noticed some oddities on the "funny papers" (blueprints). There were electrical outlets directly above and below sinks, with no ground fault interrupts anywhere in sight. A whole variety of things. When we contacted the guys upstairs, the said they thought they had approved an office building.

    An office building with 3'-diameter exhaust fans every 15' down the wall? An office building with 3'x8' holes in the floor filled with pea gravel? Made out of lexan? Smart guys in the regional office. It took a while to talk them out of their absurd position and correct the specs, mainly because of their idiotic need to save face.

    •  This is hilarious! (none)
      and makes a fine example of the kind of ignorance that indeed kills.

      What used to slay me was the production control people who would run up to me with their pants on fire with a job they needed 'right away'...

      and would stand there waiting for it like I could blink my eyes and make the parts appear, or like I had them in my pocket.

      Better yet was the look of incomprehension when I told them it would be a few days because we didn't have the material on hand...some were on the edge of tears!

      Didn't know it was a green house indeed!

      Parties divide, movements unite.

      by Gegner on Mon Jan 02, 2006 at 07:00:52 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  I so appreciate this (4.00)
    I know what a Bridgeport is, and I grew up in a GE town (locomotives).  Both my parents worked there, as did I.

    When I graduated from high school, half of my class went on to college, and the other half went into the shops, which wasn't seen as a bad choice.  It was a golden age for this country, when someone with a high school education and a willingness to work, could make a decent living, raise a family, and retire comfortably.

    Thirty some years later, GE is still there, but my hometown is otherwise on the brink of ruin.  Entire avenues of once bustling factory buildings are now mostly empty, and the townsfolk buy from the local Wal Marts, where everything is Made in China.  A hundred years earlier, my hometown made a huge array of products, some of which were world reknown.

    I don't know what the answer is, but part of it is valuing people who know how to actually produce things, be it some part for your car, or the food on your table.  Not everyone can be an MD or MBA or a JD.  And I appreciate that times change.  But we have to have leaders who actually care about our people, especially those people who don't have the ability or influence to adapt to these sweeping changes.

    Our side surely is at fault.  I was very proud of the electrical workers union at this GE plant who came out and endorsed Nader in 2000, one of the few non-service unions to do so.  Regardless of the wisdom of voting this way, they at least recognized and got behind someone who stood for their interests.  But way too many of these people are dittoheads and lap up the right wing line, largely because the Democratic party lost its way generally, and abandoned them particularly.

    •  Only one GE plant (none)
      survives in this neck of the woods and it is a shadow of what it was when I worked there in the 70's.

      I say that until commerce returns to it's original purpose, to serve the people, our society is doomed...scratch that, the owner class is hanging themselves, society will survive without them and re-establish commerce as it was meant to be.

      It will be painful but I have faith.

      Parties divide, movements unite.

      by Gegner on Mon Jan 02, 2006 at 09:34:51 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  You are so right (none)
    I have taught university level maths and a whole bunch of other things.  And I have, though not qualified as an all-around machinist, run threaders and slotters and turret presses and a bunch more.

    We have been exporting and giving away our nations ability to 'make things' ... yet that, and agriculture, and other basic endeavors have been the foundation to the nation's success.

    I would like to see one single lawyer or accountant or politician go into a production shop and make a single thing ... or into a field and plow it properly ... or into a mine and some out with a ton of ore, or to refine the metal ... or frame or plumb a house ... to to fell trees and saw timber ... or any one of the other millions of things necessary to a nation, a society.

    I could go on and on.  All I know is, the US is giving all of this away, thanks to politicians, multinationals, and the chase after the almighty dollar above anything else.

    Good rant, good observations!

    It is difficult to get the right answers if you don't ask the right questions!

    by wgard on Mon Jan 02, 2006 at 08:39:09 PM PST

    •  I've met more than a few (none)
      teachers who worked summers in a shop. You can appreciate what it's like to run production for hours on end but, at the end of the day, you took off your coat or apron, punched out and the day was done. The job didn't follow you home.

      Teaching is quite different and so is sales for pretty much the same reason, the job's never done.

      There's a certain satisfaction to look at a pile of parts and see with your own eyes what you have produced over the time you spent diligently toiling away.

      Too bad people who actually possess the skill (and patience) to do the job are sneered at by people who wouldn't 'lower' themselves to such a menial thing as manual labor.

      In my honest opinion, an honest days work and a glass of milk would do the bastards in!

      Parties divide, movements unite.

      by Gegner on Mon Jan 02, 2006 at 09:22:46 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  aoeu (4.00)
    So, what happens 30 years from now?  If it takes practice to be good at making stuff and very few are entering the field now, who will be around in 30 years?  Wealth is made by labor, when there is no labor there is no wealth.
    •  I can only speculate (none)
      that the powers that be think they will be able to import this knowledge back here if the need arises.

      The real problem is the equipment necessary to do the job is gone too! What didn't get exported with the work got scrapped and we're talking some very expensive stuff here...I also sold machines for a while.

      Parties divide, movements unite.

      by Gegner on Mon Jan 02, 2006 at 09:26:16 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  My Sister, the MBA (4.00)
    My sister is a Harvard MBA.  She was a year ahead of George W and didn't know him but her boyfriend did as he was the bartender at the student-run pub.  She went in wanting to do public relations and things like that but fell in love with production and went on to run production lines for paper products, contact lenses, black and white TVs (the last American production line for that product).  She could make a shop floor hum and she did it by respecting the line workers and building teams.  

    She hasn't been able to get a job for years now.  Last time she checked the HBS job board there were nine or so production jobs available, all but two in China.  Oh well.  Now she spends her time organizing for MoveOn.

    Skilled laborers are something to see.  I have a friend who is a stone mason.  He showed me a photo of some old Mainers working stone.  One man in the photo was swinging a sledge to break a rock.  The perfection of that swing caught in mid-motion took my breath away.  This old guy was relaxed and concentrated and would apply just the right amount of force at the right point of impact to get the job done.  I am so glad I have the eyes to see the beauty in that swing and know a little of how much it cost for that old man to get there.

    Don't get me started on farming.  I have my garden and was part of the movement that started the resurgence of farmers markets in the 1970s so again I know just enough to appreciate what it takes.  A farmer risks everything every year and works like a dog to do it but the rewards can be enormous.  Every harvest is a miracle.

    De-industrialization and peak oil are going to plague our future.  There are ways to reduce the impact but I'm afraid that the mass culture will refuse to recognize the problem let alone the solutions possible.  Keep your powder dry, your skills sharpened, and your imagination working.  The imagination is what matters most.  

    Solar is Civil Defense

    by gmoke on Mon Jan 02, 2006 at 09:06:48 PM PST

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