Friday, August 2, 2013

Good Help is Hard to Find (and I Know Why)

When I first started my warehouse job, I worked with two other guys loading trucks.  There was Joe, who was good at his job; he was fast, a good loader, and essentially he trained me.  Then there was another guy, we'll call him Tim (I don't want to name names).  Tim had spent 20 years working for PennDOT (Pennsylvania Department of Transportation).  It's laughable that so many older types claim that they're the hardest working generation, when this guy seemed to have been trained to be lazy and uncooperative.  Also, he was slow as a snail climbing a hill made of molasses.  He quit after a few weeks when our dock lead criticized the sloppy way he had loaded a truck.

Joe told me that this was nothing new.  In the weeks before I started, he had trained temp after temp, and all of them had quit within a few days.  Some of them, as described by Joe, were worse than Tim.  They'd take way too much time loading the trucks (if they weren't busy standing around or making frequent trips to their cars for "headache medicine").  I was the first person to come along that could actually do the job.  This boggles my mind, because warehouse work certainly is not rocket science.  It's not even non-rocket-related science.  When lots of parts are going out, loading the trucks is like putting a big puzzle together.  Sometimes it's a bit challenging, but let's face it: chimpanzees can put puzzles together.  I do consider myself smarter than the average chimp, but even a below-average chimp could load some of the trucks, because sometimes they have practically nothing on them.  Yet there are people who are allowed to drive cars, make children, and own firearms but are incapable of grasping basic concepts such as stacking boxes or putting things in numerical order.  Apparently survival of the fittest has been canceled, because there's a lot of dummies roaming around out there.

Worse still, some of the dummiest of the dummies are running the companies that are hiring the other dummies.  Case in point: Joe was hired as a temp.  He made the same amount of money as those of us who work full time hours nearly every week but are considered part time, but he also got health care benefits, vacation pay, and some paid time off.  I don't get any of that stuff.  The people who makes lots more money than me and Joe, who get paid to make decisions, couldn't understand why he didn't want to accept a part-time position with the company rather than being a temp.  They were, in theory, offering him a more secure job, but they were (in reality) asking him to give up all of his benefits to do the same job for the same amount of money.  When he declined their bogus offer, they cut his hours down to about 12-15 hours a week.  Since making the drive to the warehouse for that amount of hours is idiotic, he quit.  I don't blame him.  So, to sum up what took place, the brain-trust that runs the place forced out the best loader they had to save themselves a few bucks.  They claim that their goal is quality for the customers, but what took place next is proof that this is not the case...

Two weeks after Joe quit is when Link was due to be born.  I had put in for that Monday and Tuesday off about two months in advance.  Also, the dispatcher/boss-type-person knew he was going to be taking a vacation starting on Thursday of the same week.  So they twisted Joe's arm to make him quit two weeks before they would definitely need another person in the warehouse.  And boy-oh-boy, I can't put into words exactly how incompetent the temp they hired for that week was.  You know how goldfish are usually just dumbly staring out of the tank with their mouths open?  That's the face this guy always had on.  When one person is loading a truck, the other person or people bring him the cages and pieces for each stop.  This guy couldn't comprehend two things: one, that the stops should be brought to the truck in the order they need to be loaded, and two, that the pieces from one stop should be left somewhere near the cage of that stop.  And even though we do this same thing over and over again until each truck is loaded, he would just stand around, blankly staring, until one of us told him what he should do.  He was a friendly dude, so I feel bad saying this, but truth is truth: he was a dumb motherfucker.  He actually slowed the rest of the team down.  And this is who they brought in to temporarily replace the good worker they'd already had.

I'm not sure if all of the crappy workmanship is due to lack of intelligence, lack of giving a shit, or a combination of the two.  A great philosopher once said, "Stupid is as stupid does."  I suppose this means that the stupidity part of the problem can't be fixed, but the not-giving-a-shit problem is in the hands of the employers.  There's lots of different ways to make people want to do a good job.  The worst ways are brow-beating and punishments; the best way is rewarding good work.  But this doesn't happen in our current job market.  Loyalty is not rewarded; I stayed in the same office for five years, but when it came time to cut costs (so the CEO could make a few extra thousands on top of the millions he already was making), my job was outsourced.  I saw the work the new employers were doing; it was low quality.  Putting in your best effort and doing a good job is not rewarded; I work hard and always come in early when I'm asked, but I know I won't be offered a full time job with benefits (in fact, I was told they only want part time workers, even if I'm working full time hours).  So, rather than trying to hang onto this job, I've been looking for work elsewhere.  This means that once I'm gone they'll have to bring in yet another new person, train this person, and hope that he or she isn't totally incompetent.  For a company that claims, as all of them do, that their main goal is quality, this is a poor business model.

The company I used to work for (in the office) has since gone bankrupt and been stripped down and sold off to other companies.  When it comes time for the company that uses the warehouse to decide if they want to renew their contract with us, I wouldn't be a bit surprised if they decided not to renew.  People wonder why the economy is so shitty, but it's pretty clear to me.  Workers don't care because they have no reason to care.  The bottom line that dictates the actions of the employers is greed, not providing the best products or services.  Our capitalistic system used to be fueled by competition and innovation, two things the corporations seem to fear and actively take measures to squash.  These are the ingredients of a recipe for repeated failures, more outsourcing, more bailouts, and a murky, dismal future for the economy of our country.

I wish America had a reset button.

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