“Ok… everybody off the roof!!”

I was just getting another bucket of tar from the hook and line setup we had to bring it up from the guy working the kettle below. “Heh” I was thinking “your turn buddy”… when our foreman started ordering us all to stop working and get off. I turned to see the first few of what would eventually be a fairly large group of big men with clubs. They came up a ladder and immediately started approaching us.

“Even if you have a union card, I want everyone of the Omaha crews off the roof, NOW!”

As I said in a previous post regarding this job, I was hired “as a scab for the corporate predators and scammers of a big Omaha-based industrial roofing company.” 

I’ve also said and written here about how I felt well treated by those who hired me. Never mind the fact that I was hired at all (which couldn’t have happened soon enough) with no ID and no work history. But there was another truth regarding my situation (and that of all us scabs) that made the whole enterprise we were part of… doomed from the start.

And that truth was about to hit us square in the head if we didn’t do something right away. Fortunately, we were led by a guy who knew exactly what to do. Fortunately, our foreman cared enough about us and knew how to handle situations like this.

Right away, he sent a runner to go and get all the crews off all the roofs being worked on. He had everyone gather in one place and brought all the trucks and all the workers together so we could load up and get away as quickly as possible. If we needed to.

And we needed to, but because of our foreman’s fore-thinking, it all went smoothly.

Our foreman (I wish I could remember his name) then went up to these men. These men with clubs. Men who had come prepared to break some heads. Our foreman went up to them and talked. We could all see him up there. Talking to their leader, and his whole gang.

Of course none of us could hear what was being said by anyone. None of us knew anything about what was going on at all. A few started speculating. The college guy said something about knowing all along this was going to happen but no one listened to him.

Most of us were silent the whole time. We just stood there and watched. Eventually, our foreman came down and told us all to get into the trucks. We were leaving. We were leaving right away. We stopped by the motel to get anything anyone had left there and were on the road in no time. Apparently, all the equipment would be dealt with by someone else.

On the way back, I heard a little from the guy driving, about how we’d been hired because of a labor dispute within the Kansas City branch. That the Omaha branch was asked to take up the slack and get started with this big contract that for some reason had to show some progress by a certain time for some reason. Again I wasn’t riding with the foreman and I was kinda glad I wasn’t riding with anyone likely to keep speculating.

No one was talking much in our truck and I was happy with that.

I was also happy (and lucky) that my work had apparently been good enough for the company to keep me on. But my adult self is now aware that it must have been a continued risk for the company. Even though the Omaha branch might not have had the same union issues the Kansas City branch did, my having no ID must have also been an issue when they finally let me go a few weeks later.

We were doing another Sika Sarnafil job, this time on a public school somewhere in Omaha. It was now January and it was so very cold and I didn’t have the right clothes and I was up on that roof way too long and I got frostbite.

I got frostbite on my right big toe (coulda lost that toe) so they sent me home and told me to not come back. At the time I was pissed and felt I was being treated unfairly. My adult self now can see that yes, they might have done something to help me get an ID and have me hired properly. Instead of simply paying me cash and then letting me go as soon as I was any kind of liability, they could have done something.

But I wasn’t exactly insisting they do anything about my ID situation. THAT would have made it necessary for me to get a copy of my birth certificate. And THAT would have required me to contact my parents.

At the time… THAT idea, to contact my parents, THAT was still something existing within me in an environment as toxic as any I’d been in thus far.

I wasn’t ready to go home just yet. At all. I would have to see much more first. I would have to see something of just how toxic a lifestyle could be. Before I could decide to change the trajectory of my current path, I’d have to see much more of where that path might lead.

Fortunately, I got to see it clearly enough. And quite soon.

And I survived.

More to come…