Friday, June 20, 2008

Get the Salt

Go get the salt. I'll wait right here.

My pride didn't get in the way of the right action on that cold morning. I followed the instructions that the shop steward bellowed at me without a second thought.

Before I set the alarm clock the night before, I knew there would be ice around all of the entrances that morning. Freezing rain the night before left a real mess for us to deal with, and the persistent gale force winds in the port of Newark didn't show any signs of letting up. It was pitch black when I made it to the office that day, and as I suspected, the asphalt ramp leading to the employee's locker room was slick with ice.

It was Robert, the shop steward who knew the contract better than I, any lawyer, or union representative, the man who distrusted me, the company, the government, and just about everyone else, helping the elderly employees navigate the ice in front of the entrance. As he promised, he stayed right there, making sure no one slipped, until I got back with the salt spreader to do battle with the ice.

All the managers on the conference call two months before will never forget the outrage of our boss when one of the managers couldn't specify whether an employee slipped on grease or ice, a few hours after it happened. With a mixture of guilt and relief that we weren't the focus of his ire, we all listened as Matt said that just wasn't good enough. His managers needed to know exactly how their employees got hurt, and certainly within a few hours.

On the weekly safety conference call later that day, Matt spoke after I related the story of Robert and the ice. “You see...That's what its all about...Its not management and union, workers and bosses...its people. Watching out for each other. Caring about each other. That's how you keep your people from getting hurt.”

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