Summertime work in the automotive factory tempered the young man’s flame by day. He spent hours with cotton in his ears, bucking rivets inside of wheel wells of bus-frame assembly lines in a GM factory. He listened to the horror stories of the job-related injuries that were related to him by the blue-collar riveter with whom he worked—a union veteran of 10 years on the same line. The man looked forward to spending another 30 doing the same job, despite that he almost lost one of his thumbs in a winch on more than one occasion.
“Sonny,” he addressed Almarón, “... I just pray that when my time comes to retire, I still can count ten fingers on my hands and that I at least five or six grandkids at home. God bless America.”
The anecdotal horror stories wizened Almarón to a blue-collar mentality that left Coke bottles inside of door panels just so the “Quality Control guy” at the end of the production line had “something to inspect and fix.” That same attitude also led the rank-and-file union members to slow their production lines any time they caught wind that production-capability inspection personnel was due at the plant—a part of Management’s random inspection plans. The line veterans had no intention of producing as many busses as management wanted. As a result, they continued to manufacture only eight buses per hour rather than 11. What did they care if management had trouble paying for R&D, operating bills, and unionized employee entitlements? The environmentally driven attitude in 1969 was “us vs. them”—“Workers vs. Management.”
Almarón’s “genius” intelligence quotient—his score in high school, measured 184; his SAT scores were a perfect 800 in Verbal and 760 in Math—wasn’t taxed too hard for him to predict the bus and auto industry’s future, and, with them, the health of the nation’s economy. If the G.M. workers’ attitudes represented a cross-section of America’s primary factory workforce, he figured that, sooner or later, there would come strife, strikes, and bankruptcies. And those incidents did occur that harsh winter between the GE Corporation and the IUE (International Union of Electronic, Electrical, Salaried, Machine, and Furniture Workers).
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