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> Issue 27 > Page 5 - From Conversations with Steelworkers: How Mike Oleschuk got his Farm

Page 5 - From Conversations with Steelworkers: How Mike Oleschuk got his Farm

Published by Ronald Caplan on 1980/12/1 (379 reads)

pies had to buy the job, like I told you. (A bottle of rum to get the job.) Well, if you wanted to work steady in Sydney, you had to give the boss a bottle every week. He forgets that first bottle. There even was an agent in the open hearth and the mixer, he collected two dollars from each one there and gave it to the boss, so those fellows could stay on the job. The bosses had the power that time. No union. What place could you go? The foremen con? trolled the whole thing. If you're in good with the foreman, okay, you could be work? ing. In 1933, my-father-in-law was working in the big plant. And he told the foreman to take me there in the spring, take me to make brick. So I got that job. You have a tank there and a chute and molds, and you have to beat mud, and beat it good so you don't have a rock--so that it will be solid and smooth. You work with another man who picks up the bricks and puts them onto a car to go to the kiln. After the fellows there took them out, the bricks went to the open hearth and the blast furnaces and other places they used it in the plant. (Was it easier than work? ing on the coal bank?) Didn't make any dif? ference at the steel plant what you did-- it was a hard job. Making brick, you've got to work like a son-of-a-gun--4" by 9", you've got to make 2000 bricks, and slab brick, 9" by 10", you've got to make about 1200 to 1400 for each car. You made 4, 5, 6 cars a day--there was no contract on that. And they paid you by the hour. Strip? per had 28 cents an hour, and mold man working at the beater there, he had 30 cents an hour. (You must have been tired all the time.) I was young. You get a little bit of rest, and you forget. And no such a thing as a union. You talk about union, and you're out. (So you didn't talk about unions?) Well, I talked. But you've got to know to Men working In cooled-down Open Hearth furnace; Mr. & Mrs. Mike Oleschuk & part of their family. whom you talk. You watch for the progres? sive people who know what is what. If you figure there is danger, you don't talk a- bout those things. I was two years, and all summers I made the brick. And in the wintertime we'd go there in the general yard. I worked with the bricklayers. I car? ried the brick with the wheelbarrow. (What were bricks used for?) Used it for the fur? nace, used it for what the gas goes through, it's called the checkers. Gas goes through the checkers to the furnace to melt the steel, coming from the gas producers. The clay bricks from Scotland and other countries, they go in the check? ers. The bricks that I made here in Sydney, they went to line the furnaces--in the roof and the sides of the furnace. I helped line the furnace. And if the furnace is hot--that's a hard job there again. If the furnace has got to go through a repair, put the new brick there, you've got to go in there with bars and break the old brick out. Then you go into the furnace and you line it. (Did they tum the furnace off, let it cool down before you go in?) Oh, no, no. Not too cool. Sometimes hot, by jeez. But the boss said go, and there was no union that time--if he told you to go, you put a wet bag over your head and go in there. The wet bag is so you don't burn yourself. Your shoes--you're working two shifts there, you don't have shoes. You climb in? to the furnace. You can't stay in too long. The heat chokes you. You go in for as long as you can stand. Pick up the bricks and throw them away outside. Pick up the bricks and throw them away--pick up as much as you can there. After they see you choking and your back steaming where you put the wet bag over your head--you get out and another fellow's got to go. (Ter? rible job.) I know that. And no union to protect you. The boss said, you go in. And you'd have to come early to get a shift-- (5)
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