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Take Your Girlfriend To Work Day


My boyfriend is the literary researcher for a crime novelist, and gets to meet some fascinating people and go some pretty interesting places on the job. This weekend, he had to go to an ironworkers' picnic in Whittier to continue his research for a movie, and I went along.

Ironworkers are "the cowboys of the skies" -- the guys you see ambling along a girder 50 stories up:

Their job is to unload, erect, and connect fabricated iron members to form the skeleton of a structure. Structural Ironworkers work on the construction of industrial, commercial, and large residential buildings, as well as on towers, bridges, stadiums and prefabricated metal buildings. They also erect and install pre-cast beams, columns and panels.

Right now, a number of the guys I talked to at the picnic -- from Local 433 -- are working on a building in Century City. "Not that big," one guy said. "Just 12 floors." Twelve floors up, no net? Big enough.


It's an exceptionally dangerous job. From time to time, an ironworker falls off a girder, which they call "falling into the hole." These shirts commemorate the guys who didn't make it.


At the picnic, a couple of cop pals of the ironworkers were hanging around on these cool buggies. Well, one cop and a stand-in when I took the picture.


It's a myth, by the way, that the ironworkers are all Mohawk Indians.


The most entertaining moment of the day was when I asked this guy for his job description, and he rattled it off rapidfire:


"I can heat, sheet, beat,
chop or work on top,
rig or dig,
fuck, fight, hold the light,
pump, push, or take compleeete control!"

Posted by aalkon at September 11, 2005 9:26 AM

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I have to ask (although you may not be able to disclose it) - is it Elmore Leonard? Love that guy.

Posted by: Dmac at September 11, 2005 8:10 AM

Yes, he's Elmore's researcher.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at September 11, 2005 8:46 AM

When I think of America, it guys like these and their families I associate America with. My dad was a union meatcutter, worked his ass off, and I think would say enjoyed the American dream. When he got sick, his union, The Teamsters, saw to his medical needs and provided for his family, and to my mom, to this day.

It just doesn't sem so complicated when you know where you priorities are, and this country seems to be failing it's workers, veterans, retirees, and children at every step.

Posted by: eric at September 11, 2005 7:55 PM

That's what one of the ironworkers said to me and a couple others echoed -- that it's just too hard to make it being middle class these days...that you used to be able to "do an honest day's work" and support your kids and family.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at September 11, 2005 11:52 PM

I'd be the first to agree with you that the country is in danger of being split further between the haves and have - nots, but am at a loss to come up with any workable solutions as to how this widening gap may be closed. Maybe a repeal of Bush's 2001 tax cuts would be a start.

Posted by: Dmac at September 12, 2005 7:30 AM

Not just rolling back, but increasing the tax structure of the top few percent of earners in America. Place a cap on the amount an individual can earn and accumulate in this country- say $50 million. Increase the strength of the IRS to prosecute white collar criminals, and put teeth into the existing laws so as to discourage anyone from even thinking of looting a company. No CEO should earn more than a couple million when the workersat his company are taking health care /wage cuts.

Some say this would stymie inniative and the entrepenurial spirit. I think that is ridiculous. Do you think Bill Gates would have stopped his work as a teeneager if he could only acquire $50 million in assets? Or $100 million? It may actually encourage the entrepenurial spirit if others had a more equal footing to compete with Mr Gates.

I was watching the Sunday morning news programs, and an reoccurring theme seemed to be "now that Congress has so quickly ok'd $62 billion for New Orleans, the real looting is about to begin".

Posted by: eric at September 12, 2005 8:34 AM

Oh, yeah, just watch the piggies go to the trough over this one. Given the potential for fraud in these deals (one - bid contracts), it could get very ugly, very soon.

My model for the CEO mold was always Roger Enrico, former head of PepsiCo. He started out as an assistant on a delivery truck, and worked his way up the ladder, one rung at a time. Since his father had worked for a bottler as well, he represented the blue - collar workforce that Pepsico relied upon, and his son learned that lesson well. Enrico always thought that the top earner in any company should not have take - home pay that exceeded the lowest - paid worker by over 25x. That may sound like a lot, but it's dramatically lower than what most CEO's award themselves these days.

Posted by: Dmac at September 12, 2005 1:38 PM

You're right on with suggestions for increasing taxes at the top tier and limiting corporate executive income, based on ratios to workers' earnings, at least as a start. I would also suggest not letting companies like Walmart claim that the public benefits from their lower prices, when that same public must pick up the tab for their workers' medical care, food stamps, job losses to foreign suppliers, and so forth.

Unfortunately, both Congress and the current President are bought and paid for by guys who think $50 million a year is just getting started - especially if they know someone making $51M. Note to Gordon Gecko - quite often greed is NOT good.

Posted by: Melissa at September 14, 2005 2:58 PM

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