Sunday, February 5, 2017

Old Friend Gone

My old friend Don McRobb passed away a few days ago. Don was my Union rep partner back in Terrace, BC in the 70's and 80's. He was 74 and when I last talked to him in October he was very proud of the fact that he had finally quit smoking. "I may have waited too long though Croft as I am hauling an oxygen tank around with me. It's not slowing me down though". Don and I had our share of arguments but he was a good rep, always having the member's best interests at heart. Here is one of a thousand memories Don and I shared:

Don McRobb Story
The Chief Operator in Terrace was trying to fire an operator for "abusing her (late night company paid) taxi privileges" (an operator gets a taxi ride home if her shift ends after 11:30 PM). They had two charges, 1) She had once taken her company paid taxi ride home at 1 AM when she got off work and had asked the driver to stop at a 24 hour convenience store on the way so she could grab milk and cereal for her son's breakfast. While she ran in and out the taxi meter clicked over an additional $1.15. Some bean counter in Burnaby caught the higher than normal charge and decided to make a big deal out of it. 2) Another time she got off work at midnight and instead of taking a cab directly home she walked across the street to a nightclub where her friends were having a bridal shower party where she stayed for an hour or so before taking her cab ride home. The nightclub was literally across the street, maybe 30 feet from BC Tel's door but the taxi invoice said the bar and the Burnaby bean counters caught it. "She is entitled to a cab ride home from WORK, not from a BAR" said the Chief Operator. They fired her.
This was the first serious grievance we had in Traffic since the Plant (craft/trades), Clerical and Traffic (operators) amalgamation into one Union Local and the Chief Operator never knew what hit her. We had the right to take up to four Union reps into a second level meeting and the company had to match our numbers so the more chicken shit the company's action was, the more we took in so we had four. This meant the Chief Operator had to ask three Plant supervisors to sit in the meeting with her. Their rolling of eyes was very noticeable when they heard why we were there. Us four Union reps had already decided it was going to be a "Take No Prisoners" meeting, ground rules were being set. The Chief Operator started off on the wrong foot by insisting she be addressed as Ms Whatever instead of by her first name. Don informed her that in this room we were all equal, being a boss gave her no extra rights and that we were all on a friendly, first name basis, "Got that?" "yes". "Don't forget it".
So here we were, eight people wasting an afternoon discussing a stupid $1.15. She went on and on explaining her interpretation of the rules the poor single mom had violated and I could see the Plant supervisors still rolling their eyes and knew the fruit was ripe for the picking. So I dropped the F-Bomb. "Why are you wasting everyone's f***ing time with this chicken shit grievance"? Two of the Plant supervisors nodded, one smiled and the Chief Operator burst into tears and ran out of the meeting.
The remaining seven of us just looked at each other and a few suppressed chuckles were heard (except from Don, he was outright laughing). One of the Plant supervisors said, "Let's get together again tomorrow, I will have a talk with her". Another said, "I will pay her the stupid $1.15 if I can get back to my job. We have wasted about $400 in wages just sitting here".
The next day we all met again and she had recovered her composure, someone had talked to her. "I have decided to give her one more chance and am prepared to offer her job back". "No", Don said, "you will not offer her job back because she never lost her job. You will make her whole by paying her for all the time she has lost, restore her seniority, her pension credits, her wage service credits and you will erase this whole sorry affair from her file. This never happened. And you will apologize to her. Got it?" Silence. She was beat and she knew it. "OK, but I want an apology from Croft for what he said to me". I told her that I would but only after she apologized to the woman. She agreed. Don and I were there the next day when our member came back to work and the Chief Operator made an un-heartfelt, weasel worded apology and then turned to me. I said to her, "And I apologize for asking you why you are wasting our f***ing time with this chicken shit grievance". She was gasping for air as Don and I walked away. I think that was the last grievance we had with her. She was no longer used to getting her way and she never wanted to see the four of us again.
RIP Don! We got your back!

9 comments:

  1. This story exemplifies why you're so pro-union and I'm, well, not anti-union, but don't think they're that great. The only time I ever asked my union to stand up for me, they let me down. This operator was very luck to have you on her side.

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    1. A bad experience can leave that sour taste in your mouth forever and that is unfortunate. A union that does not take the statement, "An injury to one is an injury to all" to heart is doing a disservice to it's members.

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  2. Sorry for the loss of your friend.
    What an interesting story and typical of some companies.
    I was a union rep for 5 years back in the 80's and had a few interesting issues to deal with, but don't remember a lot of the details anymore.

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    1. "Bad employers make strong unions"!

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  3. Condolences on the loss of good man. BTW you'll were good reps:)

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    1. He brings on a smile every time I think of him.

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  4. I don't want to leave the wrong impression. I am still friends with one of the Plant supervisors that sat in that day. He was the second level supervisor for that area and always said he enjoyed dealing with us. We could sid down, hash things out to a solution we could all live with, shake hands and know that each of us would stand up to the agreement. Most meetings were much more cordial than the one I described but that woman had to be put in her place. It was a bogus situation and if we did not intimidate her just a little there would have been many more of them. I would rather have bosses like her be afraid of us than to have us be afraid of her.

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  5. I think we need more people like you and Don in some workplaces today. Very sorry for your loss.

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  6. Great story Croft. I think I would have asked the same thing you did.

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