Monday, September 19, 2011

The Lineman and a Song of the Week

In my earlier post tonight, I addressed the possible upcoming grocery workers strike here in Southern California. Growing up, my dad always told us to NEVER cross a union picket line. Apparently, that stuck with me (probably prior to my rebellious years) and I always honored that. You just deal with it, inconvenience yourself by driving way the hell out of the way to get what you need, as long as you don't cross that line.

Then I found myself in a job where I dealt with unions. I began to find I don't seem to have the "love" of them I used to. When you employ union folks you are pretty much (in my opinion only) at their mercy. You agree to hire union workers and pay their wages, along with all of their fringe benefits. Their fringe benefits just might be better than the benefits you get at your company, but, whatever.  They also seem to be brought up to NOT even answer a question if they're not being paid for it. Hmm, some of us are in roles where we get paid for so many hours and are expected to get our work done whether or not we exceed those hours. That tends to make some of us just a little less sympathetic.

Now that I've had my rant, and I did mention my dad's rule that you NEVER cross a picket line, today my mom asked me to help her call her former hairdresser. She wanted to find out just what color the hairdresser used on her that was such a hit! My mom was certain that the card she had contained the hairdresser's personal phone number. I called it and got a recorded message for the salon. When I told my mom that, she went to get her collection of business cards, knowing she had a personal phone number somewhere.

She handed me a rather large rubber-banded collection of business cards to look through. As I did, I found numerous duplicate cards amongst grocery store club cards and countless massage therapist cards. Then I came across this very old and discolored card that caught my eye. It had my dad's name on it and was dated October of 1960. I paused and looked at it. Turns out it was my dad's "honorable withdrawal" from the IBEW!

My dad, bottom row, center. His good friend, Lowell Judy is back row second from left.

That kind of brought it home. Why my dad always raised us to never cross a picket line - he was a union guy. I so wish I could have this conversation with him now and get his opinion. I knew my dad was a lineman, but never thought that he was a union man. He never really talked about that (like so many other things he never really talked about). He used to work nights, climbing electrical poles and as his family grew, decided to go a bit more mainstream and get a desk job that was probably safer and, according to my mom, paid a bit more. Funny thing is that my nephew is a member of IBEW. I wonder if he knows that my dad, his grandfather, was also a member.

My dad was a lineman at the time I was born, but not for the county. Nor was he a lineman in Wichita. He was a lineman somewhere in Los Angeles for a utility company. When he got the safer desk job, he worked up to management and in the 70s did have to cross a line when workers went on strike. I remember that he was gone and somewhere in the desert. He and the other managers would be bussed in to work, crossing lines, and subject to violence by those union workers (workers that he once was). He did talk about that experience, and he didn't like it, but I don't recall that ever changing his mind about us never crossing the lines in a grocery store strike.

So as I sit here writing this, thinking of how inconvenienced I'd be (yeah, selfish maybe) by a possible strike and how I currently feel about unions, I wouldn't cross the lines. No, I'd just sit and bitch about it and drive farther to get my grocery items, while I still pay more for my health insurance than they do. Good thing my mom's pharmacy isn't in one of these stores, or I'd have to cross the line, as her needs just MIGHT rank over their strike.

In honor of my dad, the former union guy that was a lineman, my song of the week pick is a song I grew up hearing and loved. As a matter of fact, Glen Campbell had so many great songs prior to his famous song, Rhinestone Cowboy, that I'm constantly amazed that Rhinestone Cowboy is a signature song for him. It would really take too long if I mentioned all of the fabulous songs he recorded prior to RC and hope you'll do a little research on your own to see for yourself.

Without further babble, I give you my song of the week pick, Wichita Lineman, by Glen Campbell. Hope you enjoy or I hope it might bring you fond memories as it does me every time I hear it!


  1. This has brought back a lot of memories. I lived in an area that was big into unions, mainly because of the heavy industry at the time. When we were newly married my husband worked in a steelworks and was in control of the electronic side of things in the blast furnace.
    There had been rumblings of a strike. They called him in one night and he stayed there for three weeks because he wouldn't cross the picket line.
    Well, that's what he told me!

  2. Wichita Lineman is one of my all time favourite songs - Thank you!