When I was a youngster, I worked rotating shifts- twelve on, eight off. My Days off were Tuesday and Thursday. If I came in at 11:59 PM on Monday and worked until 10:00 AM on Tuesday, they still said that I'd had a day off. Then they'd bring me in at 3:00 AM on Wednesday.
I thought all of that was behind me, then I found myself forced onto a schedule of twelve on twelve off for ten days in a row. That was last year. I was 54. This year I'm 55 and working an "easy" fourteen hour split shift. I've got six hours off in the middle of the day, and I get paid for most of the split. The trouble is, I'm not off work. I'm stuck sixty miles from home.
I spend two and a half hours working in the yard, parking buses. That adds up to almost nine hours when I am "not in revenue service." I get to change out of my uniform for nine hours and facilities have been provided for me to "sleep" fitfully, if I can find space in the tiny, noisy crowded sleep room. If it's not too hot or too cold, I could sleep in the back of a parked bus. Trouble is, I can't do that anymore. Like I said, I'm 55. I have a permanently damaged shoulder, an equally mangled knee and hip joints that are starting to pain me. If I twist myself up to sleep on the narrow shelf that passes for a back seat, I wake up with my back killing me.
Lately, in response to complaints about overcrowding in the sleep room, management put out a memo "reminding" us that they are not obliged to provide sleep facilities at all.
Joint injuries, heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, depression, respiratory infections, alcoholism, divorce and cancer are as much a part of the job as bullshit and coffee. Management is not responsible for any of that. We "choose" to drink coffee and talk shit in the break room just like we "make bad lifestyle choices." The truth is that most of us work incredibly hard to take care of ourselves. Drivers bring healthy food to work and cook it any time facilities are provided. They walk, or go to the gym on their breaks. They meditate. They play music and write in journals. They get together in little informal groups and encourage one another to follow their diets, take their meds and exercise regularly.
Still, "coincidence" and "bad choices" have resulted in a group of workers who are chronically sick and injured. Management has taken steps to deal with the problem. They recently issued a memo restating the guidelines for doctor's notes in the event of absence. Failure to comply will result in "discipline up to and including termination." That takes care of that.
What's amazing is that we are "labor aristocrats". We have excellent health care for ourselves and our families. We can retire "young" with life time medical benefits for ourselves and our spouses. We are union members. We can't be fired without being put through an elaborate arbitration procedure. We have a guaranteed "fixed benefit" pension plan. The pension board has fifty percent labor representation.
We are constantly reminded that millions of people would love to have what we have. Hell, why not remind us that India and Pakistan and China are out there, wanting our jobs? Make it billions. Billions of people want what we have.
That's the problem with workers. We are greedy and ungrateful.