The Virginia Worker Editorial Board is launching a new column entitled “Worker Reports.” We’ll use this space to give Virginia workers a platform to share what’s happening at our jobs. This first report is from an anonymous worker. If you’d like to be a worker correspondent email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
The first job I had when I moved to Virginia was at a small manufacturing plant in town. I was hired to work in their shipping and receiving department. That duty went on for a few years. Towards the end of my time there things began to get uncomfortable.
The owner fired his brother who ran the day to day operations in the shop. The fired brother’s wife was the CEO of the company and stayed on for another few months before quitting.
Towards the winter of 2018 everyone was wondering what was going on. There was speculation the owner was going to sell the company. In the meantime, they fired more people with no explanation. Everyone wondered if they would be the next one to lose their job. Finally, around the holidays, they announced there was a new shop manager. The new person in charge met with each employee.
They assigned new duties to some employees. I was one who was assigned a new role. With the climate of several people being fired, I felt I had little choice but to accept my new position. They moved me from working in the shipping and receiving department to the glass shop. I was willing to try it even though I had never worked in a glass shop before.
In January I started in the new section of the plant. Along with the personnel changes, there were policy changes too. The glass shop and other areas of the plant had bottled water dispensers.
They removed all the water coolers and replaced them with one water fountain for the whole plant. In order to fill up your water bottle you had to walk across half of the plant as the manager watched you.
They really wanted you to just fill up water on your breaks but it made your break shorter having to walk further across the plant. Almost immediately I knew it wasn’t a good fit. The glass ovens were very hot but that section of the building had no heat. Working at a certain distance from the ovens was fine but if you stood too close or too far away you’d get very cold or burned.
They ended up putting me in the glass cutting room with the wet saws. This was a small room off the main work area. It was furthest away from the ovens and the coldest part of the work area. The glass saw and grinder worked with running water.
They provided rubber gloves and an apron to get your hands and shirt from getting wet but the water would run down the front of the equipment to the floor. Everything from my knees down would be soaking wet with ice cold water in an unheated room. If it were summer, it wouldn’t have been so bad but this was January.
Some days I’d stand in the same position over a saw or grinder for 8 to 9 hours a day with my lower pants, shoes and socks soaking wet. After about two weeks of working in that environment, I began looking for another job. I left several jobs during my life so that wasn’t an issue.
The problem was having to work in that environment in the meantime. Within a week or so my feet began to hurt and swell up. It became painful to walk. I had my application in at another employer and was hoping they’d hire me so I could leave. Everyday I’d get home from work and peel my soaked socks off. The bottoms of my toes turned a purplish blue and it was difficult to walk from the pain.
I considered filing a worker’s comp claim but I knew I didn’t ever want to go back to that place once I left. My new job prospect was looking promising and I couldn’t afford to take any time off receiving workers comp benefits. I wanted to leave that place as soon as I could and start a new job. By the middle of February, I accepted a position with another company. I gave the company I was working at two days notice when I left. I owed them nothing.
I felt stupid after I left for not filing a comp claim. My feet were messed up for a few months after leaving the job. At the time I felt desperate and just wanted to get out of that place.
There’s nothing tough or noble about hurting yourself for an employer. You have one life and one body. Don’t waste it for a paycheck. No matter what they may tell you, they don’t give a shit about you. When someone or some place is profiting from your work, they are not your friend or “family”.