"Somebody on our side, for a change."
I heard variations of this phrase most of the day.
As I've stated before, I'm a mill worker. I've been there just shy of 25yrs. Fully one half of my co-workers have been there longer than I. Needless to say, we are an aging bunch without many options left, and this is still the best gig we can get.
It's still the best gig because after this, there is not an other gig to be had.
The factories are closing. Automation has made it possible to do more with fewer workers. This is not a bad thing. Automation also makes the work a little less hard on our aging bodies, too.
Progress being progress, me and my 125 co-workers are under pressure with every contract. Give up more benefits (we've not much left anymore). Give up more pay. (a 40hr paycheck can no longer pay a man's rent in Southern California. There was once a time men bought agreeable homes and raised families with stay-at-home mothers. Those guys are all retired now.)
Our medical plan, once an envy to all who didn't have it, has been shit-canned as well. We now have this shiny new plan, (take it or leave it, bitches), where the out-of-pocket costs amount to just shy of 20% of our gross 40 hour earnings. Gross, not net. Get that.
Our employer labels it "Consumer Driven Health Care"... because we, the insured, are in charge. In short, the price of a doctor visit is often too prohibitive, so the consumer (us) decides not to see one. It is why I cancelled doctor mandated yearly MRIs of my brain stem. It's why many of us don't have procedures and tests done when we should. We'll save that for next year, and maybe put two or three surgeries together and meet our maximum early... and then ride gravy the rest of the year. We got rent to pay, ya know, because most of us lost our mortgages already....
Last March, a co-worker, and a friend, passed away due to kidney failure. He was a hard working man, raising a son alone. He had choices to make. Sure, being severely diabetic he should have done more to take care of himself, but he kept putting shit off... (have you seen my last bill?)... Dude, get to the fucking doctor!!!!... (have you seen my last bill?)
He collapsed at work and the ambulance took him away. I was there. Yes, I was. (grasping his hand... I got you bro, we got this. Ok. We got this shit.)
It was the last time he and I would speak in person, though we did text regularly.
"Kidneys are shot..,,, told me I cant go back" . This was the last text I got from him. He soon went coma... and was gone 25 days later.
I miss working with him, seeing him every day, the jokes, the laughs, his unique character, his sense of humor. Few people are like him.
He was such the wit.
Manuel was 46.
Forty fucking six!
Manuel was a real person. A human being. A devoted father. A hardworking American, who rarely called off.
His grandchild will never know him.
He had real value to those of us that knew him. But not so much to those in charge. We are just a bunch a worker ants,ya know.... disposable... to serve the queen.
To serve Wall Street and the interests of corporate donors.
Because being an American doesn't carry much weight anymore among those who populate the American government...
There is always somebody else, south of the border, willing to service 'America' for much less.
I dont know how much less 'less' can be...
I don't know what 'America' is anymore, or if I am even allowed to be a part of it.
Maybe, I just might be better off in the eyes of America if I wasn't an American anymore???
I don't know.
Manuel deserved better.
That I do know.
A nation should exist for the benefit of it's citizens.
He gets it.