Monday, July 02, 2007

power tools

Working around unions is frustrating when you are not a member. Certain divisions are lain out in my workplace to ensure that the union members are able to do all of the work they are entitled to, which of course means that non-members get the dregs, basically, of their task list. In the central city props department, there are 3 union workers and 3 non-union. The union guys work in the opera house itself while the rest of us work up the street a ways in a small room filled with furniture and fake flowers. The idea is they do the big jobs--furniture construction, major upholstery, welding and major repairs, in addition to running shows--while we do the smaller jobs--hand-prop construction, minor upholstery, minor repairs, flower arrangements and the like. I'm okay with that division most of the time--though i'd love to get my hands back on a welder--but the irksome part is the means we have of doing our light-duty work.

The small props shop does not have access to or license to use large scale power tools. While we have no real need for table and band saws as we're not building furniture or scenery, when push comes to shove it'd be a real asset to have a portable compound-miter saw off in a corner somewhere in our shop. Hand saws, macho as they may look, are the most inefficient tools for achieving small cuts besides perhaps spoons. Moreover, when you're cutting things like dowels and flag poles, no matter how well you clamp that somebitch to the table, your hand cut is going to go wonky somehow and look rough. When we need a cut to look nice, we have to take the project down the hill, hand it to a union guy, show him the mark or measurement, and let him take it inside to cut it. Nope--we can't even just run down the hill and borrow their tools.

I'm sure folks who've worked within or around unions before are quite used to this, but as a neophyte in the whole union-house business this came as a distinct frustration. My progress is impeded--A 20-second job takes 15 minutes around here in order to maintain the integrity of the union contract. That's a waste of everyone's time, particularly under the time crunch of summer stock. I understand the usefulness of labor unions--particularly in theatre where there's never enough money to go around and everybody wants to cut corners, resulting in the desirability of slave laborers (*ahem*interns) and the inability of unrepresented workers to make a living wage--but you've got to cut the rest of us a little slack. Afford us the tools we need to do our jobs too.

In other news, i have grey feet today after an afternoon painting a floor with a push broom.


Ben said...

that sounds rather odd - I have no idea if that is the same as how unions work in the uk, being an unemployed layabout and everything. The only unions I have any experience of are the nasuwt and the nut (teachers unions) whose concerns don't ever seem to include making sure that their members have enough work to do.

. . . geeky painter . . . said...

push broom, huh?