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National Labor College - Personal Experience Essay

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Eight Days A Week

November 26, 2007

ENGL 3001:  Reading & Writing Critically

William W. Winpisinger Center – National Labor College

Instructor: Jennifer Harrison

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     My recent experience with the National Labor College (NLC) at Placid Harbor, Maryland left me with mixed emotions. The thought of completing my baccalaureate degree was both exciting and foreboding.  The biggest academic obstacle I faced was time.  Finding time to complete the course work would be as difficult as actually doing the work itself. The five hour drive back to Pennsylvania would provide me with the solitude necessary to sort out this mental mash.  After a mere 25 minutes on the road, my mind was a priory under the direction of the prioress of confusion.  Suddenly, my previous military training kicked in.  I immediately went into an educational combat planning mode.  As the city of Baltimore grew more distant in my rear view mirror, my personal academic operations order (OPORD) was beginning to unfold.  As the clarity of thought replaced the mental menagerie of uncertainty, I found a topic for my third essay. I was going to compose an essay about a dream family vacation. Time or the lack there of, was my only enemy.  As long as the status quo in the three key components of my life (i.e., work, family and home) remained stable, I would be able to successfully pursue my degree.


     The first day back at work was a cold collegiate slap in the face.  Unannounced, a team of corporate safety auditors from General Dynamics was on site to conduct a facility wide safety audit.  This was very serious.  In any manufacturing plant, the Achilles heel of a plant wide safety audit is the condition of its overhead cranes. I just happen to be the crane technician for my plant.  I was given less than 72 hours to prepare my paperwork/documentation regarding the 15 overhead cranes I am responsible for.  Acting like safety Nazi storm troopers, these corporate safety auditors were going over the plant with a microscope.  One year had passed since General Dynamics had purchased my plant with a directive to local management to correct all safety

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problems.  This was no ordinary Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) inspection.  Any safety deficiencies found would result in people getting fired.

     By the end of the second day, my plant’s safety engineer was terminated and escorted off plant property.  My supervisor was in a full blown panic attack. He was ordered to present my overhead crane inspections reports to the corporate safety auditors and he did not want any surprises.  I told my supervisor to relax.  I reminded him that I had his signature on the 15 individual crane inspection reports.  The safety status of the cranes should be second nature to him.  He started screaming and gesturing like a schizophrenic in desperate need of a lobotomy.  Apparently, no one in my company bothered to read my annual inspection reports.

     On the third day back at work, I was surrounded by a virtual plant maintenance trinity: my supervisor, the plant maintenance manager and the plant engineer.  These guys were pissed off at me.  With each crane report being seven pages long, my documentation was flawless.  Every single shortcoming for each crane was identified and detailed according OSHA requirements.  Further, I designed my reports to include any/all corrective action taken for each short coming found.  I had nothing to worry about, I did my job.  My supervisory chain of command had failed to do their jobs.  Much worse, they wanted me to edit the corrective action portion of my reports to mitigate their own responsibility for our facility’s overhead cranes.  Once again my military training kicked in.  Taking control of the situation, I stood up and looked the plant maintenance trinity in squarely in their collective eye and stated: “My report(s) stand as written!”.  Realizing that I would not fictionalize my reports, the plant maintenance manager and plant engineer exited the room leaving my supervisor to take the heat for my reports alone.  My boss was in fear of losing his job.  I told my supervisor to calm down; I had two hours to teach him how to make shit flow back up hill.

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     Evidently, my supervisor was a quick study and followed my instructions to the letter.  During the presentation of my reports, the safety auditors brought up various issues that they found during their inspection of the cranes.  To the surprise of both my supervisor and the safety auditors, every concern they raised regarding crane safety was addressed in my reports.  Continuing, the safety auditors appreciated the corrective action portion of my reports. To his credit, my supervisor was the only manager who recognized the shortcomings of his department and was willing to address them.  Instead of getting fired, my supervisor was praised by the facility’s vice-president for setting high safety standards.  As my third day back at work drew to a close, my supervisor apologized for his earlier conduct and thanked me for doing such a good job.  Then my pager went off.

   The yard crane had blown up.  More precisely, the crane suffered a major electrical failure that would require extensive repairs over the course of the next four days.  Without this particular crane to unload raw material from the rail cars, plant operations would cease within 72 hours.  Fortunately, the weekend was approaching.  I worked a total of 78 hours that first week back from the NLC at Placid Harbor.  I lacked the time to think about a vacation let alone write about one. The first key component of my life was not maintaining the status quo so necessary to successfully pursue my degree.


     Obviously, my duties as husband and father top my list of life’s priorities.  In my renewed academic pursuit, I draw heavily on the support of my family.  After proofing the first assignment written for this class, my daughter gave me a big hug.  She was very proud of her dad for going back to school.  Ten days passed since I left the NLC at Placid Harbor.  I began to

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compose the third writing assignment for this class.  It was going to be a humorous essay on taking a dream vacation to France.  I looked forward to my daughter proof reading this new literary effort of mine.  Despite the problems at work, my family would remain the one constant I could count on.


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