Rules are thicker than 'blood'

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By Rick Dalton

After seven years in scheduling we experienced a time period known as “reduction in force.” This means we were losing a shift due to slow car sales.

A new experience awaited me as we were laid off in sequence of our seniority and called back on an “as-need” basis. For some reason still unknown to me, I was called back and placed in Plant Security as a vacation relief security officer.

Not only was this a full pay grade less than I had been making it also required me to work split shifts and spend unwanted time on the graveyard shift. By the time I was recalled to report back to scheduling, I had totally engrossed myself in the workings of the security department and turned the production job down as security offered a chance to work the day shift on a regular basis.

Which brings us to the point of this story. After a period of time learning the ropes and nuances of being in plant security, if found, the job actually had more benefits than the production scheduling job and offered us a chance of rising above the floor by entering supervision.

After a suitable time period of work, study, trial and error I managed to pick up enough knowledge to mystify my superiors and wow my subordinates into thinking I might make a good choice for vacation relief supervisor. This job meant you had to fill in the need for a supervisor when the primary supervisor was on vacation, but most of all, it meant we were back on the graveyard shift once more.

Plant security personnel are separate from the rank and file GM employees – and we were not to recognize our kinfolks when encountered in the plant other than a friendly greeting. Most of us adhered to this policy, although it was most difficult at times, especially since General Motors as well as most other companies prefer to fill their employee ranks through a liberal dose of nepotism.

I started at the Doraville, Georgia facility in 1967 and my dad was a supervisor in plant security. I had a host of cousins scattered across the 54 roof-covered acres of the main plant.

While a supervisor in plant security has many duties and responsibilities, I concentrated my time on learning the fire control system, as GM’s policy at the time was while theft can slow us down, a fire can shut us down. In the beginning of the new model year in 1982 the plant was working nine hours daily and every other Saturday each month.

This is a grueling production schedule and when one considers that most GM plants were not air conditioned at this time, heat exhaustion was a major problem for those working in high heat areas.

Since none of my security officers were interested in walking fire patrol it became my primary occupation once each shift to personally check the high heat and hazardous storage areas for out of order conditions that might cause us a production slowdown. As I was ending one of these tours I walked near where the nephew who was hired upon my recommendation was working.

We chatted a bit and I asked him for a cigarette. He pointed to an open pack on his worktable and the first one I shook out was a joint of marijuana. The second was another joint, as was the third. I looked at him as he grinned at me and then spied the rest of his work team watching the game in process.

Training took over. I pulled the supervisor call whistle for this station and had the trainer relieve my nephew from his job. As he stood there looking at me in wonder, I called the UAW committee person for this area and asked him to report to the workstation.

As soon as the area supervisor and the union rep were present and witness to the proceedings, I formally charged this hourly worker with possession of forbidden drug related material and escorted him to the Industrial Relations office for settlement. My nephew was laid off in accordance with the posted shop rules that governed all GM employees, hourly and salary.

His punishment: the balance of his shift and two weeks off without pay. My punishment: his mom and dad, and my closest friends at the time refused to speak to me for almost a year.

At the next GM/UAW negotiation, Jeff’s time off was reinstated and he was paid for the two weeks he was off fishing and hunting and enjoying life. We both laugh about the situation now and I still believe I would not waver in my decision to initiate formal charges for wrongdoing even now. But then again, who can say?

Rick Dalton is a certified horticulture professional, who resides in southwest Marion County with his wife, Brenda. He says: “When you cease to learn, you begin to die. And if we cannot have a little fun while passing through, then plunk it.”