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Saturday, May 15, 2010

MUHAMMAD ALI


February 25, 1964: the Sonny Liston-Cassius Clay fight. This was in the days before Pay-For-View and televised championship fights. The radio reception was terrible at our house so Duke, Les, and I jumped in brother Norman's car and rode around in the car listening to the fight. Norman, Duke, Les, and I LOVED Cassius Clay, but my brother Gary couldn't stand him! I had bet Gary $20.00 that Cassius would win; he ridiculed me by saying he didn't want to steal my money. When Cassius won, Gary was a poor sport and refused to pay me by saying it really wasn't a bet! I guess he didn't like the 7-1 odds! The next day, Cassius became Muhammad Ali and I supported him 100% in his decision, much to Gary's chagrin. I had been a fan of Cassius Marcellus Clay since he won the 1960 Olympics as a light-heavyweight.

In my life, I've probably had 100 fights about Muhammad Ali!

In 1973, my job was threatened simply because I defended Muhammad Ali. One night, at lunchtime, a bunch of the guys were in a discussion about Ali and there was just one guy, Buddy, defending Muhammad and I also spoke up to defend him. Knowing that most of the men were chauvinists, I should have known to keep my mouth shut, but Hell, I grew up with seven brothers, so why would I let a bunch of guys who weren't EQUAL to my brothers intimidate me? One guy, Howard, became so incensed that the veins were bulging from his forehead and neck as he screamed at me! Howard already disliked me, because I had been hired and his son had not been hired, and also because I had NEVER turned down any overtime; he told me that I was "greedy". [It's always been a strange--but true--psychological fact that people who don't want to work overtime still resent those who are willing to work it!] Howard once told me that I shouldn't even be working there, because my husband had a "good job"; I told him that it wasn't "good enough" for me!

At that time, I did not have my "probationary period" in with the Company and Buddy told me that two of the other guys had gone to the General Foreman and told him that he should "get rid" of me, because I was a "troublemaker". Thank goodness Buddy told me as it enabled me to prepare myself. Later that evening, the General Foreman called me into his office and told me that he'd had a complaint about me. I responded like a naif and asked, "How could someone complain about my work; I ALWAYS make production?" I knew that ploy would force him to compliment MY work. He said that my work was great, but that I should keep my "political opinions" to myself. I asked if the guys were getting the same warning or if he'd spoken to Buddy. He told me that since I was a "probationary employee", he wasn't going to discuss it with me. I asked him if I could have opinions once my probation was served. He told me he didn't like my "smart mouth" to which I answered that I believed I was just employing LOGIC (even though he and I both knew I was being sarcastic). I also knew that I was in grave danger of losing my job at that moment, but I was young and idealistic and had never been one to back down if I were right! He then told me that the ONLY reason that he wasn't firing me right then was because I had set production records in the short amount of time I had been there, but that I "better watch" my "step"!

After the meeting, Buddy told me it took a "lotta guts" to speak up, but that I needed to be careful because several of the guys were out to get me; I had five days remaining before my 90-day probationary period was up and I would be "in the Union". On the 90th day, Howard came up to me and said, "You'll be gone before the night's over." I answered, "And if I am gone, just think of all the money I've earned working YOUR overtime; I made a down payment on my house with all that money!" Of course, that wasn't true, but everyone knew that we had just purchased a house.

That night, the power went off and we were all sitting in the dark around our machines when the General Foreman came over and asked if I would work overtime if the power returned, because we needed to ship the order. Of course I worked the OT!

The next night, I was safely "in the Union"; the Steward handed me my union card at the beginning of the shift. Howard was the forklift driver for my area and he kept delaying taking away my units--which I knew was deliberate--which interfered with my production. I jumped on another forklift and moved the units from the conveyor and set them down on the floor adjacent to my machine to enable us to keep producing. I had also written on my production sheet about the downtime caused by the forklift driver. I resumed running my machine. Howard was furious and ran and got the Steward and he was standing by my fixture screaming that I didn't have a forklift license and then the Foreman came and told me to stop running my machine to "work this out". I told him that I could actually "walk and chew bubble gum at he same time" and that I could also work and talk at the same time! I said that I "couldn't stop" because I had to "catch up" because of the productivity loss that "the forklift driver" had caused. Howard heard the entire exchange, all of which further enraged him, because he couldn't keep me from producing!

The Foreman told me I wasn't allowed to use the forklift. I answered that I was SO sorry, but since I had a forklift license from my other job, I was "merely reacting to a SERIOUS SAFETY ISSUE"! I pointed to the Safety Slogan on the wall. Of course, Howard was hearing all of this and he asked, "WHAT safety issue?" I said to the Foreman that I was worried that my units would fall on the floor, because "the lift driver" wasn't moving them and I knew that our safety was more important than anything else! It also infuriated Howard that I would not address him, only the Foreman or the Steward, and that I wouldn't refer to him by name, only as "the lift driver". [I learned a FEW things about arguing growing up with a father and seven brothers! I'll admit that I was enjoying all this "trash talk" knowing full well it would only further antagonize Howard!]

Howard was screaming that I should be "written up"! I responded, "I'm sure the Contract FORBIDS anybody interfering with production; which do you think is worse--losing production--or operating a forklift?" I also mentioned that "the forklift driver" was causing more production loss by standing there screaming rather than doing his job. The Foreman ordered Howard to get on his forklift and "clean up the mess!" Howard was screaming, "Aren't you gonna write her up for using the forklift?" I yelled, "Hell no, Mr. Forklift Driver, I'm going to get a medal!" Howard was given disciplinary action which made him even angrier, but the Steward negotiated with the General Foreman that I would delete the reference about "interference with production" on my production sheet as I achieved my usual 100% productivity despite the downtime!

IRONY or FATE? Would I have lost my job if the power hadn't gone off and we needed to work overtime to be able to ship the product? I went on to become the first female Manufacturing Supervisor in the history of the Company! After I became a Supervisor, I asked the General Foreman if he were going to fire me that night if the power hadn't gone off and he said, "Of course not, you had the best production in the department!" Of course, when I became a supervisor, Howard transferred to another department. I left that Company in 1978, and in 1986, Howard called me and asked if I would help his son get a job at Rockwell! Now that's CHUTZPAH!

2 comments:

Mona Lisa said...

NAIF? I had to look up that one. Love your word usage!

suigeneris43 said...

Isn't it strange how Muhammad Ali was vilified for so many years and now he is practically revered?