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« Here we go again | Main | Aligning Slotted Shoe Cleats »
Friday
Sep232016

Don Dave

When I left my bicycle business in 1993 I went to work for a company that manufactured bowling equipment. The company was located in the City of Orange just south of Los Angeles in Southern California. The workforce of about 100 was almost entirely Mexican.

The following year the owner of the company decided to move the business to Springfield, Oregon. The State of Oregon, along with the City of Springfield gave him large tax breaks, low rent, and other incentives to move there because of Oregon’s high unemployment rate.

All employees were given the opportunity to move with the company but only about 15 of the original workforce including myself decided to move. When we arrived in Oregon we immediately started hiring. My position with the company was Welding Production Manager so I did some of the hiring. 

We were not necessarily looking for skilled workers, we were prepared to train people. We didn’t drug test anyone which may have been a big mistake, most of the people we hired it seemed had been unemployed for so long, they had lost any desire to work. One man I remember started work at 8:00 a.m. I showed him how to do a simple assembly job with a wrench. He worked until 10:00 a.m. when we took a break, he left and we never saw him again.

Another man I hired lived near me and I gave him a ride to work each day because he had no car. He quit after two weeks and stole a box of bronze bushes from the company worth several hundred dollars and sold it for ten dollars to a local scrap metal dealer. How do I know this? I found the bill of sale from the scrap dealer in my car some days later. As fast as we could hire these local workers, they quit. We didn’t fire them, they quit. We may be found two or three workers we could hang on to.

In desperation the owner contacted some of his original Mexican workers from Southern California and offered them a job. A few of them came and soon the word spread and others followed and by the end of that first year in Oregon our entire workforce was once again almost all Mexican. The company had really tried to give locals the jobs but had failed through no fault of our own.

I found the Mexican worker a joy to work with. You could take someone who had never welded in his life before, spend about half an hour showing him how, and by the end of the day he was welding with the speed and quality of someone who had been doing it for years. The Mexican has a work ethic like you wouldn’t believe having been taught to work hard from a very early age. In their own country they don’t work just to get by, they have to work hard in order to survive.

If one of their group was not pulling his weight for example the others would say to me, “Juan is lazy.” Not behind his back but to his face. Juan would become embarrassed and we would all have a laugh. He had been shamed into working harder by his fellow countrymen.

They called me “Don Dave,” in a somewhat lighthearted manner, but never-the-less a mark of respect they didn’t even extend to the owner of the company. Being an immigrant myself helped, but I believe I got that respect because I treated them with respect. I treated them as I treat everyone, as an equal, neither above me nor beneath me. I learned a few words in Spanish, enough to instruct them on their daily task. They made me look good with the company, because of the quality and quantity of work they produced.

Mexicans would not cross the border each day in their thousands if there were no jobs. People hire them not because the Mexican is cheap labor, but because they work hard, do a good job and often an employer can’t find others to do the work they do.

 

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Reader Comments (10)

Immigrants tend to be hard-working the world over, in my experience. (I was one once.) The anti-immigrant feeling here in the UK, which led to Brexit, is just plain bigotry I think.

September 23, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterStephen

Do you remember a thin, long-haired Mexican guy named Lou at the Orange location? I think this is the same place that my friend worked at.

September 24, 2016 | Unregistered Commenterkeith

So, on balance, did the owners of the company feel the benefits of the move from California to Oregon — the generous tax breaks — were worth the trouble?

September 24, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterTBR

Having lived in Oregon, specifically the Willamette valley, and north, I am not surprised by the lack of motivated people in the Eugene area. I don't think a this location is a good example of the lack of desire to work as a general rule. I do think that anyone from anywhere who makes an effort to change is willing to put some effort into being successful.

September 24, 2016 | Unregistered Commentersjx426

Bravo, Dave.
I get so tired of people putting down immigrants. My brother and cousin have both told me how immigrants are stealing our jobs and our social security money. They try to backtrack when I remind them that my immediate family are all immigrants: wife and step kids from Germany and son-in-law from the Philippines. They say, "I'm sure they are very intelligent, not like the others". Again, bravo Dave for telling your story and reminding us that the overly entitled born-heres don't want the jobs that are being stolen but don't want those others to have them either.
Thanks,
-Rob

September 25, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterRedtaildd

I agree with your sentiments towards Mexican workers/work ethic. The problems come not from immigration per se but illegal immigration when there are thousands trying to go the legal route and being frustrated that the illegal immigration has not been addressed by successive governments.

September 26, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterJW

Dave
Thanks for your post. I spent 15 years working in the orchards of Washington state and many of the folks I worked with were Mexican. Based on that experience I concur with your observation regarding their willingness to work and ability to do a job well.
As it so happens, I currently live in Eugene OR and one of jokes going around is "why are there so many hippies in Eugene?...the answer " they heard there was no work"....

September 27, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterGuy

I'm sure one could hear similar stories in European countries. Sad isn't it ?

September 29, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterAnthony C.

Well said again Dave and I think you could post the same thing in the UK swapping Mexican for Polish and it would be true from my experience.

September 30, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterNigel

Thanks Dave, what a great story and writing. I feel you on this. I have really come to love the latino community and culture, here in the Mission district of San Francisco.
I'm Philippino, my family came here in 1974. We are immigrants. My sons school is a spanish immersion school, all spanish speaking, 95% latino, we've all learned how to speak spanish now and are thankful for all of the beautiful families and friends that have come into our lives.
I could not be luckier, we have a great life here.

People who are not connected to the immigrant community typically do not have a favorable opinion about immigrants, especially illegal immigrants, especially Mexican illegal immigrants.


The only differenc between legal and illegal is a piece of paper that forces them to pay taxes. So I say MAKE THEM LEGAL so we can build more roads and parks!

I think that anyone who hates Mexicans or any other person not from the United States, should go to that country, meet the people, eat the food, and see the land. Better yet, find a job there and work side by side.

I'm pretty sure they will have a different opinion afterwards.

I love travelling and try to take my son travelling as often as possible, so that he can learn about other cultures and appreciate them.
So that he doesn't grow up hating people he doesn't know.

October 30, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterEly

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