Skills

I have been thinking a lot about the idea of  “skilled” versus “non-skilled” work, not just in the plant, but especially in there. My line has a variety of jobs, none of which are considered skilled. But they all require training, and some have yet to be mastered by more than two or three people. That deficit makes it hard on those of us who can do the jobs, as we are left to pick up the slack and do the jobs for multiple turns in a night. A friend of mine who used to work on my team left it because she wanted to do something else. She didn’t go far, just to another team, one with less heavy lifting. However, since she’s repairing imperfections in metal, she has to learn how to weld. In the post-bankruptcy Chrysler, there are no more “semi-skilled” classifications. It used to be that if you had a skill like welding, you got paid a little more for it. After all, it added value to the car, right? A few months ago, I considered going to a team where I would learn to weld. But I was informed that not only would I NEVER get welder’s pay, the person who did the same job on day shift was grandfathered in and would Always get his welder’s pay. I gave the supervisor back the weld jacket. If I can add value, I can add wages. Some supervisor had the nerve to joke with me, “Oh, so it’s all about the money, huh?”  I can tolerate jokes of all kinds: tasteless, raunchy, off-color. But to imply that we, who are on the floor, are somehow greedy is just beyond the pale. I just told him that if I was interested in volunteering somewhere, I’d be at the soup kitchen in my neighborhood, cooking for the homeless folks. We are all skilled workers in this life. Maybe not all tradesmen, but we all have skills.

 

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About Stepchild in the Promised Land: Notes from a Tier-Two Autoworker

A third-generation Detroiter, Wayne State grad, mother and tier-two autoworker.
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