Disgruntled Autoworker
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Observations #33
August 2004

Double Standards Again

On our first day back after the 03 Christmas and New Years shutdown, the Plant Manager (PM) went through the Paint Department like a bull in a china shop. He was putting quality stickers all over jobs and knocking them down for the tinniest piece of dirt. When I heard this I went looking for him. I was hoping to catch him, because I would have written him up for doing an inspectors job.

He came and went so fast I missed him. In his wake he knocked down so many jobs it took paint repair 57 hours to dig out of the mess he left behind. And since then we’ve been averaging between 45 and 55 hours a week in a vain attempt to ensure that Quality Creates Customer Enthusiasm.

A rumor was circulating as to why the PM had a bug up his butt about paint quality. It seems he spent the shutdown going around to dealerships comparing the quality of our paint to that of a Cadillac, SUV, Corvette or whatever. Which is like comparing apples and oranges. Apparently he had too much time on his hands.

I’d like to put the paint quality rumor, and who’s to blame, to rest once and for all, and its got nothing to do with that crap about it being a team problem. We aren’t a team. Mgt and the Gobs are the only team I know of. I believe some of the problems we have in paint, and their solutions, could be applied to the rest of the plant.

When we were running two shifts, the Baltimore Plant received several Awards for World Class Quality Paint. However, since The Sell Out, the loss of second shift, the downsizing of production and Skilled Trades workforce without reducing the workload, combining Skilled Trades, and cutting corners and cost on building maintenance, paint quality has taken a nose dive.

There are 7 paint mods, and at one time there were 4 Booth Cleaners per mod. Cleaners were furnished with top quality cleaning equipment and solutions. And building maintenance had enough people to adequately maintain and keep the mods operating efficiently.

Today there is 1 booth cleaner per mod. The solution used to clean the mods has been replaced with a cheaper ineffective solution. Filters aren’t changed according to specs. Water, if any, used to regulate airflow isn’t changed according to specs. The ovens aren’t cleaned according to specs. The repair mod is so out of balance that an entire job needs to be wrapped just to paint a fender. One or more mods are down for repairs at any given time. And a repair booth has had its dynamics changed so radically that it is now a health hazard.

I’ve been in Paint for 10 years. When I first started working there, we would get a bad paint day once in a while. There were times when we wouldn’t have a bad day for weeks. We had so much time between repairs we could read a novel a week. Today it’s just the opposite, good days are few and far between. We are so busy now we don’t have time to read. Which is fine, because the majority of us are here to work anyway.

However, some jobs are being repainted so many times that they set off alarms. A supervisor joked one day that some jobs have looped between paint repair and the mods so many times it’s like circling the wagons. It’s my opinion that when a job is repainted over and over and over again, we are ripping off the customer and throwing Customer Enthusiasm right out the window.

The logical solution is to contain the problem at its source, the mods. More booth cleaners are needed with the proper cleaning materials. And more maintenance people are needed to bring them back up to specs, that is if there is anyone around who knows, or wants to know, what those specs are anymore. My guess it that there isn’t, which would explain why they’re in such disrepair and paint quality sucks.

Anyway, Mgt doesn’t always do the logical thing. They decided that they could solve our paint quality problems by adding more finesses people and repairmen after the jobs have been painted. Duh! Mgt cannot eliminate 21 booth cleaners and neglect maintenance and still expect to get a world-class quality paint job. It’s like trying to put 10 pounds of crap in a 5-pound bag; it’s just not going to happen.

They are violating all of their Quality Absolutes. Instead of adding booth cleaners and bringing the mods, ovens and booths back up to specs to improve paint quality, they’re passing defects on to repair. You try passing defects on to the next station and see what happens. Double standards rears its ugly head again.

I’m aware of the cost involved in solving these problems. And we all know GM is not going to spend the vast amounts of money that’s needed to solve them, especially since the plant will be closing sometime between now and next June. But in the same token, I’m sick and tired of Mgt and the Gobs pointing the finger at us. If there is any finger pointing to be done, it should be at the Joint GM/UAW Partnership Team.

Watch Them Squirm

On several occasions, members have quit the Star Point program out of frustration because their unbiased opinions weren’t appreciated at Mgt’s scripted meetings. And a body shop Star Point Rep was removed from her position for being opinionated. She filed a grievance because she felt that Mgt was retaliating against her.

She went downtown to the NLRB over this incident, and previous incidents that she feels indicates a pattern of discrimination by Mgt. The NLRB is currently investigating her case. Less than a month later she was reinstated as Star Point Rep. It took outside intervention to get Mgt to do the right thing.

Gee that sounds familiar. I too had to go downtown to get Mgt to drop a reprimand, and to get the Gobs to settle a grievance that they would have sat on until whenever. Mgt and the Gobs will deny our actions forced their hands, but we know better.

We may have won a couple of battles against Mgt and the Gobs, but the war is far from over, and it will never be over as long as they have their Joint Partnership. They hate losing, so they’ll back up, regroup and come at us again with more determination and cunning.

That is what my friends and I are currently experiencing. Mgt and the Gobs are using a new tactic. They are assigning workers with questionable characters, and an undying loyalty to them, to our work areas and they’re gradually creating a hostile work environment around us.

Their people will intentionally bump into us, or say off the cuff remarks, or they’ll point and whisper, all in an effort to get us to go off on them so we look like the bad guys. When we complain, Mgt will turn it around and blame us for creating the incident, like they did the two members who were exiled to the Tire Bay.

The Gobs do it too. A Committeeman had a temper tantrum and went off on a member and threw a glass ashtray, shattering it into a million pieces. The Shop Chairman and Zoneman turned the situation around and placed all the blame on the member. Would they still have blamed the member if a piece of glass flew into someone’s eye? The Committeeman should have been disciplined.

I had an incident a while back that I believe was a deliberate attempt to get me to go off. I’m not one to complain to Mgt about a coworker, I’ll warn them first.

After a second incident, I told the coworker in front of a witness that if it happens again, I’d file a report. It happened again, so I filed a report.

The Paint Department has 6 production Small Work Groups, and in the last year there have been at least 3 inquisitions because of Gestapo Coordinators, and countless individual inquisitions because of personality conflicts between members, or members and their coordinators. I wonder how many they’ve had plant wide.

In every case, Mgt conducted a shoddy investigation. They didn’t interview everyone involved, only a select few, and in some cases, when they realized they didn’t have enough evidence to fire, or discipline, a certain someone, they squashed the inquisition. Not to worry, they’ll back up, regroup and try again.

Mgt and the Gobs are not qualified to conduct investigations of any kind whatsoever. They are both biased and prejudice and can’t be relied on to be fair and impartial. For proof of this, all you need to do is look at the discriminating appointments they make. Which is why many of us, who are being retaliated against, take our problems downtown to the NLRB.

Mgt and the Gobs have turned this plant is a breeding ground for hostilities, not only because our futures are in doubt, but also because they are pitting us against each other over bullshit. The way they see it; as long as they can keep us arguing and fighting amongst ourselves, we’ll be too preoccupied to fight them.

The Gobs are supposed to fight our battles for us, not join Mgt to double-team us. The time will soon be at hand when we can show the Gobs that we know a thing or two about retaliation too. We’ll finish in the 05 elections what we started in 02. This time everybody goes.

Last January a supervisor told me, “Retaliation can be so sweet.” At first I thought he was referring to my efforts to hold the Gobs accountable, and then I thought about both Mgt and the Gobs retaliating against my friends and I, so I said, “What do you mean?” He said, “Instead of firing somebody, its more enjoyable to watch them squirm and see what their response will be.” Well, I hope they’re enjoying themselves.

We’ve got Mgt shooting at us from the front, and the Gobs sneaking up behind us. What a dirty little war they’re waging. An NLRB Rep once told us in relation to Mgt, “Keep your head down.” And we’ve learned from experience, when it comes to the Gobs, “Watch your back.”

In Solidarity,
Doug Hanscom

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