Back in the 1970’s the Mills were seeing the WWII steelworkers retire and the generational change brought the children of the sixties into the steel workplace. It was a different breed, to be sure. I had been elected to the Zone Grievance position, which meant I handled grievances for about 500 people.
I was called into the Steelmaking Superintendents Office because a employee named Tim Muckly (not real name) was regularly missing one day a week. The Superintendent was a mostly humorless man with a reputation as a stern disciplinarian. He had called Muckly up to his office and tried to reprimand him over the absences. But Muckly had shown the Superintendent his paychecks. Because of tax brackets, Muckly explained that he only made $10 less working four days, than if he worked five. I’m just doing what Bethlehem Steel would do, Muckly apparently told the Superintendent. It’s just a good business decision. The Superintendent tried to explain to Muckly that if he didn’t show up for all his scheduled days, his take home pay would be zero, because he was going to fire him. But as Cool Hand Luke would say, “what we had here was a failure to communicate”. The Superintendent was so dumbfounded by Muckly’s explanation that he asked me to try to reason with him.
I found Tim on his overhead crane shortly afterward and told him about the conversation with the Superintendent. Tim had a new relationship with a woman at his church, who had several children. I tried to talk to Tim about the need to have a good job if he was going to marry the lady. But Tim said that his Mill hours were interfering with his ability to date, and that if God wanted him to lose this job, then it was Gods will.
In the spirit of “if you can’t beat em join em” I asked Tim if it was possible that God had sent me down to his Crane Cab to tell him to make his schedule and keep his job? Tim considered it for about 10 seconds, and then violently shook his head and said NAW! Clearly I was not the messenger from God that Tim had envisioned. As a dismissed messiah, I was out of arguments.
Tim Muckly wasn’t fired. He quit. I later saw him driving commercial buses and he appeared to be happy and content. He had married his lady friend and was helping raise her children. He had daylight hours. Even though he wasn’t earning as much as he did in the Mill, he was making it. In the end, the Mill just wasn’t for him. Ironically, the decision he made wasn’t a good business decision at all. He had opted for quality of life instead.