It always seemed to me that small contractors who worked, primarily in or near the streets and roadways, were more closely observed by the Civil Rights people, OSHA inspectors, and all of the other Do-Gooders that thought they knew more about the work than the contractor did. I guess that we (Clifton Engineering Co.) were a small employer, because I doubt if there was ever a time that we had more than 200 men on our payroll, and usually no more than ten men on any one crew. Because of this close scrutiny we were always very cautious about violations. That is, if we were able to figure out just what constituted a violation.
One time, when we were starting up a new pipe line crew, the Union Hall sent out, among others, a young black lad that had just been released from some sort of a penal institution. Our Foreman thought that he appeared to be a pretty sharp individual, so he made him the Truck Driver.
Things went well until, one night, the Truck Driver could see no reason why the truck should sit, idle in the equipment storage yard, when he had the key for it and his friends should be aware of the good job that he had. So he took the truck out for a spin, and spun it right into the side of a parked car.
The crew Foreman fired his Truck Driver the first thing the next morning. That is exactly what any good Foreman should have done, BUT this Truck Driver was black and different rules applied, in a case like that. All was quiet for a few days and then one morning our receptionist called to advise me that a man was here, from the Fair Labor Practices Commission, to talk with me about a truck driver that had been fired. She also said, very quietly, “He is black and he is big”.
I guess that is the reason that people like Mr. Clifton hired people like me. I have heard the phrase “talk to him Bart” many times but this was one time that I wished that the Boss was here and I was out checking the work in progress. However, I asked Wendy to send him back.
Wendy was right, he was black and he was big, but he was a gentleman. He explained to me how he had received a complaint from one of his people that one of our foremen had, unjustly, fired a man for having a slight accident with one of our trucks, and would I please tell him my version of the incident. When I told him what had really happened, he thought a moment and then said, “you know if a person were to do that to me, I would fire him on the spot, think no more about it.” He stood up, shook my hand, said “good day” and left.
The moral of these two is–Don’t be soft hearted with ex convicts.