What Are Your Expectations?


When you report to work each day, are there specific expectations you will be required to meet? First things first, are you expected to be at work every day, on time? I’m sure that has been explained in detail to you. Are you expected to provide a fair days work for your pay? How about being expected to produce a certain quantity of work to a particular level of quality, have those requirements been defined to you? What about breaks, personal time and lunch, are there clear expectations you have to meet? It seems that management has no problem explaining to you what exactly it is that they want from you, correct? There is also no shortage of examples of what happens to us if we fail to meet those expectations.


What are your expectations, when it comes to working every day? Should you be treated with respect? Should you be paid the correct amount? Is overtime being scheduled properly? Was the job you bid on filled according to the contract? Is your workplace clean, heated, ventilated and well lit? Are the tools and equipment you use each day maintained in optimum operating condition and pose no danger to you? Have you been properly trained (not just the online CYA training) and equipped to perform the tasks you are assigned? Are the chemicals and materials you are exposed to the safest available and is your exposure kept to the minimum level possible? What are the potential consequences for you if your expectations are not met?


The end result of either management’s expectations not being met or your expectations not being met are the same—we get disciplined, hurt or worse. Our penalties are financial or physical and our rewards are in the check we get every two weeks and the satisfaction we get from doing our job well.


Recently it was announced that there would be no market-based wage increase for the post 2005 hourly workers. Justifiably, there were hard feelings. We know what our wages are and how we have to work to earn them, but one could reasonably expect that a company that recorded a record $62 billion dollars-worth of business last year would have a few crumbs for the people in the shop—right?


Shortly afterwards, buried in U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission filings, the leaders of Caterpillar were cashing in on their stock options. If you look for “Statement of changes in beneficial ownership of securities” on the CAT website http://www.caterpillar.com/secfilings you will see how much the officers in the Administration Building shared in our disappointment. Check out how some of them purchased tens of thousands of shares at discount prices (as low as $27 dollars per share) and then turned around on the same day and sold them for $115 per share. One of the executives made more than $4.7 million dollars in one day. That’s a pretty huge windfall for the people who just said they didn’t have any money for you. Do actions like that meet your expectations?

The first week in March, the STIP fairies came and as the Journal Star reported, “Caterpillar Inc. released its own economic stimulus package this month with the announcement of a record $1.2 billion payment to employees.  "The employee incentive program is based on how the company did in 2011 as part of Caterpillar's broad philosophy on compensation," said spokesman Jim Dugan.” The story went on to say, "Not all of those 23,500 employees in Illinois get incentive payments. Production employees, such as those with United Auto Workers, have a different program with (lump-sum) payouts in November," said Dugan. So much for expectations.

 No matter what, you can have the best job in the plant or make more money than anyone you know, but neither is worth much if you are injured, made ill or killed at work. Each year between 4,000 and 5,000 workers die on the job. Another 50,000 have their lives cut short by diseases caused by work-related exposure to hazardous chemicals.


Every year on April 28th, Workers Memorial Day is observed. On this day, we remember our brothers and sisters who were killed or injured on the job. In the Peoria area, please join us this year as we meet with other unions and march from the Labor Temple to City Hall where a number of speakers address those gathered about brothers and sisters we have lost. This is a fantastic opportunity to meet others who think as we do and to rekindle the spirit of the labor leader Mother Jones, who said, “Mourn for the dead, but fight like hell for the living”. Below is a list of UAW-represented workers who died on the job in the past year:

·        On January 5, 2011 (died 1-18-2011) – Anthony Marshall: 45 years old; Machine Operator; 5 years seniority; Allied Metals; Troy, Michigan; LU 155, Region 1. The victim was operating a metal washing/sorting system. His workstation was positioned beside a belt conveyor and a shaker table. Regular job tasks included reaching into the shaker table to remove non- conforming metal. While performing this task, the victim’s clothing became entangled in the end of a belt conveyor and he was pulled head first into the equipment between the belt conveyor and a reciprocating conveyor. He was trapped for approximately 10 minutes as coworkers, police and fire rescue attempted to extract him. The victim suffered strangulation and was unconscious by the time rescue personnel extracted him from the machinery. Emergency stop pull cords on the side rails of the conveyor were disconnected at the time of the incident.


·        On March 10, 2011 (died 3-13-2011) – Talmadge Sadler: 68 years old; Heavy Truck Driver; 45 years seniority; Triumph Aerosystems-Vought Aircraft; Dallas, Texas; LU 848, Region 5. The victim and a co-worker were preparing a modified flatbed trailer to transport an airplane wing. The victim’s task was to fasten down fixture components and a rolled up tarp prior to driving on the highway. He secured the fixture and tarp and was walking toward the mid-point of the flatbed intending to descend by stepping down onto the bumper of a small van. The victim tripped on a contoured part of a rib structure designed to secure the wing in place and fell approximately six (6’) feet to the ground, landing on his head. The walking path was obstructed by the fixture used to cradle the wing. The rails to hold the tarp and a mobile platform normally used for accessing flatbed trailers were not available at the time of the incident because this trailer was parked in a different location than normal.


·        On March 23, 2011 (died 3-24-2011) – John Bernady: 51 years old; Production worker; 3 years seniority; Fairfield Manufacturing; Lafayette, Indiana.; LU 2317, Region 3. The victim was found unconscious in the door area of a turning machine. He was caught between a door panel and a slide table and had likely been removing metal shavings and chips using an air gun at the time of the incident. The victim suffered cardiac arrest as a result of being crushed between the door panel and the slide table. He was able to access that area because the interlock safety device on the machine doors was inoperable and had been bypassed. Several more interlock safety devices were found bypassed in the facility. The victim was working alone at the time of the fatal incident.


·        On June 7, 2011 – Ben Alcorn: 22 years old; Rack/Unrack Crane Shuttle Operator; 3 months seniority; Acme Galvanizing, Milwaukee, Wisconsin; LU 1092, Region 4. The victim was moving an empty “production bar” (a large rack used for carrying parts through the galvanizing dip process) from one bar stand to another using an overhead gantry crane equipped with two hoists operated by a single pendant control. The production bar is 28 feet long X 5 feet wide and weighs 2,500 lbs. The stands used to hold production bars overhead are approximately 10 feet high. As he was attempting to unhook and move the crane away, the bar suddenly shifted, sliding off the stand and falling on top of him. It is likely one of the hooks had not completely cleared the production bar, snagging it as the crane moved away, pulling it off the bar stand. The attachment points used to hook the bar are narrow and very difficult to see from the ground. Also, there were reports that one of the hoists on the gantry crane had been traveling up faster than the other. Little formal training is provided for crane operators and the victim had only been on the job about four weeks at the time of the fatal incident.


·        On August 13, 2011 (died 8-14-2011) Frances E. Buckner: 58 years old; Semi-Truck Driver; 16 years seniority; Chrysler Transport, Detroit, Michigan; LU 212, Region 1. The victim was fueling her tractor (over-the-road truck) with diesel fuel shortly after the start of her shift (4 a.m.). According to a witness working nearby; the victim heard the pump “click off” and proceeded to pull out the pump nozzle to place it back on the pump. As she pulled the nozzle out, diesel fuel was still flowing and she was doused with fuel on her face, eyes, chest, thighs and feet. Her clothing and shoes were soaked with fuel. The victim proceeded to a location where an emergency eyewash was located and found it disabled. She washed off in the women’s restroom as best she could and was provided a T-shirt by the shift supervisor, and later, a pair of work pants. The victim showered at the medical facility and the Medical staff determined she could return to work. The victim asked if she could go home and change her undergarments because they were wet with fuel. Medical staff advised they could not make that decision and she would have to ask her supervisor. The victim began hyperventilating during the conversation and an ambulance was called to transport her to a nearby hospital. She was later airlifted to a Regional Hospital and died there on August 14, 2011. The causes of death were listed as Acute Respiratory Distress; Possible Diesel Inhalation; and Clinical Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)


On October 10, Brothers Angel Guibas Velazquez, 60 and Jorge Montalvo Sanchez, 57, workers with the Puerto Rico Department of Transportation and members of UAW Local 2341, were killed when the truck they were driving was hit by a large truck as they were attempting to make a U-turn.


So, back to your expectations, what is the most important thing you do each day? It might not be the first thing that comes to your mind, but after you read this, I’d like it to be. The most important thing you do each day is to clock out and go home.


Our brothers and sister listed above were not able to do that on their last day of work. Why? What happened to them that could happen to us on any given day. Why do we think we are so special? Do you think any of them went into work thinking, “this would be a great day to die”? Do you think there may have been a lot of things they would have liked to have said to their loved ones?


You have the right to a safe and healthy workplace-that is an expectation. You have the right to bring safety problems to the attention of management and to file a union safety complaint if those issues are not resolved to your satisfaction-that is an expectation. You have a right to know about the chemicals you work with and how to protect yourself from exposure to those products-that is an expectation. You have the right to report an on-the-job injury or illness and not be retaliated against-that is an expectation. Which of these expectations are you willing to give up? The choice is yours. Either you stand up and fight for what is important to you or you can sit back, and do nothing-be silent. If you choose to be silent, do you want it to be while you are dead or alive? It really is up to you.


Steve Mitchell