Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Life Passages - Part 3

(Continued from Part 2)

I was excited about the opportunity of teaching in Chile.  This particular school taught English to miners who worked for an American company just north of Santiago.  The term of employment was to be for one year.  I spoke to a Canadian teacher at the school to get her opinion on the job.  I already spoke Spanish and I saw this as an opportunity to improve my Spanish reading, writing and speaking skills.  I had a plan to offer my house in the mountains east of Albuquerque up for a 1 year lease.  I would take my pension early so I had a monthly cash flow.  Then....life happens.

Ron in 2005

I met Ron early in 2005.  He lived in Rio Rancho, about an hours drive away from my home in Tijeras.  We started going out.  He had a house and business of his own and he was charming.  He endeared me to him when he brought me home-made chicken soup when I got very sick.   He loved travel, the theater, and dining out at good restaurants.  We enjoyed each other's company and spent weekends making little road trips to out-of-the-way places in New Mexico.  We took trips to Arizona, California, Colorado and Los Cabos, Mexico.  I had found a companion to share my love of travel.


He asked me to turn down the job in Chile and then he asked me to marry him which I accepted.  I moved into his house in Rio Rancho.  We got married in January, 2006 in Poway, California and then we flew to Ireland for a honeymoon.

I got my Substitute Teaching Licensure and began substitute teaching in the Rio Rancho schools. I got paid $70/day and $35 for a half day when teaching kindergarten.

Working at home for ETS
Teaching English at Southwest Creations Collaborative
Through membership in my professional association, TESOL,  I saw an ad for on-line raters for a Test of English for International Communication (TOEIC) offered by Educational Testing Service (ETS). I applied and was provided training and I was certified to score the TOEIC test at home on my computer.  The hours were flexible and allowed Ron and I to travel.  The pay was $10/hour.  After a couple of months of TOEIC scoring, ETS offered me an opportunity to qualify to score the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL iBT).  After training, I was certified to score the TOEFL Speaking and Listening Test in September, 2006. It was a good fit for me in semi-retirement.  I would work when I wanted to in either 4, 6.5, or 8 hour shifts any day of the week.  I worked at home.  I started at $14/hour and later made $18.54/hour.  A good part-time job for me.



I also continued to do volunteer ESL tutoring for the CNM Literacy Program where I was able to create my own original teaching materials and have face-to-face interactions with wonderful ESL students. I especially enjoyed my time teaching English at the Southwest Creations Collaborative in Albuquerque where every employee gets 2 paid hours of English language training each week.



Employees at Southwest Creations Collaborative are immigrants from Mexico and all need English language training



Most recently, I volunteered to tutor English language learners at Central New Mexico Community College (Montoya Campus).  My students were primarily Arabic-speaking immigrants.

Now, after more than 10 years of working for ETS, I am hanging it up.  I worked my last shift on December 22, 2016.  I may continue to do volunteer ESL tutoring.  There is an opportunity to teach English to newly arrived immigrants from Africa which I may undertake in 2017.  For now, I will work on my hobbies like painting and photography and plan some more travel with my husband.  Our next trip is in May to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. Next summer, I will continue to volunteer for the Forest Service as a Wildflower Interpretative Guide in the Sandia Mountains.  I have done these summertime wildflower walks since the summer of 2009 and have frequently posted my wildflower walks on this blog.

It's been an interesting life so far.  I've done a lot of different jobs.  I've learned that you may not always get to work at jobs which interest you, but jobs you needed just to make money or train for the job you really want. Planning and preparation are important.  But sometimes, randomness brings you jobs that are enormously satisfying. Plus, I have been a mother and raised two fine daughters who are now married and working in their own careers.  Mary now has two young daughters, is finishing her college degree, and works as a District Manager for Starbucks.  Amanda has her own business and volunteers in many capacities including mentoring young women in jail.  I believe my life has set a good example for my children just as my own hard-working parents set an example for me.


Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Life Passages - Part 2

(Continued from Part 1)
After starting my job at NCR, I learned how to stuff and solder circuit board assemblies, to run auto-insertion machines, and to read blueprints.  These circuit board assemblies were for the new digital cash registers that scanned prices.  I liked the work and the camaraderie of my fellow co-workers who were mostly female, black, white, Mexican and Filipino.  We would share communal dinners, talk about life, love and anything else, and then head to the clubs for dancing and drinking when our shift ended at midnight.  The Teamsters were trying to organize the Sony plant and I went to their meetings and took membership cards to NCR.  I put up flyers in the stalls of the restrooms telling people about their right to organize.  We hadn't received a raise of any kind but, as NCR ramped up production, the company hired new workers for more money than we were receiving and we were expected to train them.  In September, 1977, my car pool riders heard that General Dynamics was hiring and we all applied as electronic assemblers there.  General Dynamics was the largest private employer in San Diego and it had good benefits and wages and a union.  I and three of my co-workers were immediately hired by General Dynamics Electronics Division (GDE).  I started at $3 per hour and got a cost-of-living raise of 11 cents an hour within two weeks (per the Union Contract).  I got fully paid medical insurance after three months and dental insurance after one year.  I got two weeks paid vacation and five days paid sick leave after one year.  I got life insurance, a stock and savings plan with a 100% company match of stock for every dollar we put in,  I also began a five-year vesting period for a retirement pension.

At GDE, I built circuit card assemblies, wiring harnesses, and electro-mechanical assemblies for government defense contracts.  In 1979, we went on strike.  We were trying to get better wages but President Carter's Wage and Price Controls capped defense industry wage increases.  We did get an increase to our pension and some other concessions.  We built wonderful solidarity during that time.









I developed friendships from my years at General Dynamics over the years that were the most important in my life.  The people I worked with were the kindest and most caring people I've ever met. In 1980, I got married and my co-workers gave me a bridal shower.  My co-workers were loyal and helped me to get elected to union office.  I was now an elected shop steward and an officer in my local union. I worked hard to give them the best union representation they deserved.



I applied for a promotion to Offset Printing Press Operator.  When they hired an outside employee, I filed a grievance and won because our union contract guaranteed that qualified current employees have preference for a job opening over new hires, and I was certainly qualified. I worked in several bargaining unit jobs during the 19 years that I was hourly: I was a Group Leader for Assembly,  an Inspector and a Stock Clerk.

In 1985, I was elected as the IAM&AW Business Representative to represent all the union employees in the three divisions of General Dynamics in San Diego: Electronics, Convair, and Space Systems.  I heard grievances, represented employees in arbitration hearings and Unemployment Appeals, wrote briefs and negotiated contracts, trained union stewards and worked on election campaigns and organizing campaigns.  I won my first arbitration case for a terminated employee and got a decision that reinstated him and gave him full back pay.  Although not quite a lawyer, I was doing a similar job and had to go up against high paid lawyers of General Dynamics in both arbitrations and contract negotiations and I always held my own.   I was elected twice by the union members and I did this job for 9 years while on a "leave of absence" from my regular job. The union members paid my salary from dues.  My kids learned first hand the value of unions and they were active in solidarity marches and strikes.


Amanda and I marching in Washington DC for Solidarity Day
Mary helped picket United Airlines to stop union busting

 We also enjoyed family union picnics and even a pig roast at the beach.  These were wonderful days from the early 1980's until the the early 1990's.  I got to combine my talents and capabilities with my love of working with people to improve lives and working conditions.



In the early 1990's, in a post Cold War economy, the U.S. Defense Budget was on the chopping block.  General Dynamics was selling off its plants to enhance their cash position and to drive up its stock price. The result was that thousands of General Dynamics workers were laid off in San Diego from 1991 through 1996.  It was a very tough time for all General Dynamics workers and the chaos and uncertainty sometimes generated workplace violence with my narrowly escaping a murder during a grievance hearing.  We had four Machinists Union Business Representatives in 1991, but two went on medical leaves in the midst of the most termination grievances we had ever experienced.  The other Business Representative, Paul Pechtor,  and I split up the Convair termination cases and Paul drew the Robert Mack termination case.  In January, 1992, Robert Mack, a 23 year Convair employee who had been suspended before the Christmas holidays, showed up at his grievance hearing with a gun and killed a company human resources representative and severely wounded his supervisor.   I actually felt relief when I was laid off from my stressful Business Representative job in March, 1994. I went back into the factory for a couple of weeks before I was laid off from my job, too.

During my lay-off, I went to work for Sir Speedy Printing and took classes at the Community College in Desktop Publishing with a goal to open my own graphics-related business. At Sir Speedy, my duties were not printing, but were estimating, bindery, shipping and delivery and copying documents.  It was hard work and I wasn't sure I would make it.  Then, one day when several casual day laborers who spoke only Spanish were having trouble with a shipping job, I spoke to them in Spanish and directed their work to a satisfactory end..  My boss was so impressed and I earned his respect. I had a mortgage and property taxes to pay and although the Sir Speedy job paid only $9/hour, I really needed that job.   I was separated from my husband now and raising two children on my own. I worked a second job at night in telemarketing to pay my bills but I was rapidly going into debt. My boss at Sir Speedy gave me a $1 raise which helped.  The General Dynamics Electronics Division had been acquired by the Carlyle Group in November, 2002, and the company remained in San Diego as GDE Systems, moving their operations to Rancho Bernardo.  I was recalled in 1995 to a job as an assembler when GDE Systems was awarded a Lockheed subcontract for the Atlas-Centaur rocket program.  The work paid $11.85 an hour and my benefits were restored and my pension time bridged, so I had to quit Sir Speedy and my goal to start my own business. I now assembled Gyro Assemblies and other sophisticated flight assemblies.  But I knew I had to make more money to pay off debts and enhance my marketable skills so  I went to classes at UCSD-Extension at night to get a Professional Certificate in Purchasing and Supply Management .

I was hired in 1997 as a Buyer and the manager of the Small Business Subcontracting Program at GDE Systems.  This was a salaried position and therefore I was leaving the protection of a union contract.  I was wary of this because I had been an active union advocate and many in management disliked me.  The Vice President of Operations, Kevin Harkenrider, who hired me convinced me that there would be no retaliation and he wanted me for my abilities.  Kevin was always very supportive but he lost his job in 2001 as many management changes occurred after the retirement of our beloved President, Dr. Terry Straeter.

My company went through a series of ownership changes the next 7 years during which I was primarily administering my company's  Small Business Subcontracting Program to insure compliance with the SBA and government goals.  Our company received many awards for our Small Business Program and we exceeded many of the SBA goals.

DCMA award for our Small Business Program in December, 2004.  Enid Allen (2nd from left) was the DCMA Small Business Manager and Dennis Bent (far right) was the Vice President-Procurement for BAE Systems. 
During these years, I traveled a lot for small business conferences and met wonderful people both in the government procurement world and the small business world. I frequently went to Washington, DC for the annual SBA Conference and I visited NYC for the first time.

A cruise up the Potomac River in Washington, DC

Visiting New York City
Another advantage to my job was that my youngest daughter, Mary, was able to get a college scholarship awarded to her 2002 by the company.


After our company was acquired by Carlyle, we went through a number of ownership changes from Tracor to Marconi Electronic Systems and finally to British Aerospace.  We were now a division of BAE Systems.  It was clear great changes were ahead when management began to show us videos  like "Who Moved My Cheese?" and my manager told me to get a Master's Degree.



I was thinking about a "second career" now because I could retire at 55 with 30 years of service and receive a pension.  I had always wanted to be a teacher, but I didn't think starting as a K-12 teacher was a smart idea with the low salaries and great patience you needed to teach in the public schools nowadays.  I loved travel, so why not become a teacher at an overseas English language  school?  In 1999, I  began night classes to obtain a Certificate in Teaching English As A Second Language.  I completed my practicum in 2002 at a local community college and began volunteer ESL tutoring for READ San Diego, to gain experience.

My first ESL student was Hermalinda Figueroa, a wonderful person from Oaxaca, Mexico who was working, buying a house, and raising 3 grand-children and taking care of her own elderly mother. She and her grandchildren are still my dear friends to this day.


I began a plan to enhance my skill set at the company to keep my job until I could retire at 55. I got a Professional Certificate  at San Diego State University in Government Contracts.  I began an MBA program at the University of Phoenix.  I got half-way through the MBA program with the help of the company tuition reimbursement program before I was laid off in 2004.  My division was now known as BAE Systems Mission Solutions.  I had worked in the Procurement Department for seven years and was laid off at age 54 on December 31, 2004 along with 7 other legacy employees in my department who were over the age of 55.  We were replaced by college hires who had fewer benefits and lower salaries than we legacy employees had.

My children were in college in other cities.  I had a huge house where I lived all alone. I had a couple of mortgages and was looking at more debt so I put the house up for sale and it sold in less than 2 months in the overheated California housing market.  I packed my belongings, rented a U-Haul moving truck and drove to my new house in Tijeras, New Mexico.  I was now settling down into a semi-retired life, spending my spare time on art and photography.  I applied to the local community college as an Adjunct ESL teacher but wasn't hired, so I began volunteer ESL tutoring in Albuquerque, New Mexico. I also completed a certificate in Teaching Business English with a goal to work overseas as an TESL instructor.


 I began negotiations with an English Language School in Chile to work for them in a new career as an English Teacher.

Continued in Part 3.







Life Passages - Part 1

I retired from my job last week.  I've worked a part-time gig for more than 10 years scoring on-line TOEFL tests for Educational Testing Service.  The job served me well in my late fifties and early sixties.  It was done at home and was a totally flexible fit for my wanderlust lifestyle because I got to choose when I would work and when I would not.



Working as a TOEFL test rater was a good second profession after "retiring" (actually, laid off after 27 years) from my previous profession as a purchasing agent/subcontracts manager for BAE Systems in San Diego.   I was 54 years old and eligible for a pension when I turned 55 years old.  So I sold my house in San Diego and moved to New Mexico in March, 2005. New Mexico has a haunting beauty with deep blue skies and it is uncrowded.  The state has an interesting, diverse culture and a lower cost-of-living so it was a good place for me to retire. Now as I look back on my working career, I find that, like many folks, you don't always know what you'll end up doing.  You might have a plan, but mostly you fall into certain jobs that you never anticipated.

 I've worked a lot of different jobs.  In high school, I worked the kinds of jobs you do when you are not yet an adult.  I was a baby sitter and a house cleaner.  I enjoyed baby sitting and got about 35 cents and hour. When I was in high school, I scored a house cleaning job for my drama teacher.  Can't remember what I made, but that was a tough job.  I always appreciate what maids and house keepers have to put up with because of that dreadful experience.  I next got a job as a cashier and snack bar attendant at a drive-in movie theater.  The old guy who taught me the ropes was a bookie who eventually got busted. I only worked the summer in that gig after I graduated from high school in 1968. I was going to go to college and was lucky enough to have my parents' financial support.

I stayed at my parents' house while I attended the local "junior college" (as we used to call two year community college) as a freshman. Then I transferred to San Diego State in 1969 where I had a dramatic arts scholarship that covered my educational fees while my parents still provided me with living expenses. I took a summer job in 1970 as a counselor for children at a camp for the blind in the Malibu Mountains for a $200 honorarium.  I transferred to the University of California in San Diego located in beautiful La Jolla by the Pacific Ocean where I stayed in a dormitory and worked (for college credit) as a writing tutor for incoming freshmen.  My parents paid for my room and board and my student fees which were only $100 a quarter then (1970-71).  I did private tutoring of English writing that gave me a little  spending money.


As a senior in college, I took a job as a live-in companion for a schizophrenic girl. I thought that this job would give me some practical experience with social work plus  I received room, board and a small stipend.  I did that for one crazy year.  The experience definitely changed my mind about a career in social work.  When I graduated with a BA in December, 1972, I knew that I wanted to do something to make a difference in the world.





I applied to work for the United Farm Workers Union as a community organizer. By early 1973, I got a letter from Cesar Chavez saying I was hired and was to receive $5 a week, plus room and board, and gas for my car, if it was used for union business.



Cesar Chavez, UFW President, and John Waite,Migrant Ministry, who was in charge of San Diego boycott

I started out organizing boycotts of Safeway, lettuce and grapes in San Diego.  Then I was sent to Tucson, Arizona for 3 months to work on the Arizona Governor Recall campaign.  I registered voters and collected recall petition signatures 6 out of 7 days a week.

I worked on the Recall Governor Jack Williams campaign in the spring of 1973 in Tucson, Arizona
I returned to San Diego in the summer of 1973 and lived in a "Union House" in Logan Heights where we had Gallo Wine strikers working on the Gallo Wines boycott that summer.  We also went out to the desert and supported the lettuce strike in the California Coachella Valley against the Teamsters and growers where there were threats of violence, people were beaten and some strikers were killed.  There was always a fear that Cesar might be assassinated.  One day, I had to pick up Cesar Chavez from the San Diego Airport and I was so nervous as I was stuck in traffic so his son-in-law and bodyguard, Richard Ybarra , took over driving.  Cesar Chavez was a soft-spoken and inspirational leader who practiced non-violent direct action.  I am very proud to have known and worked for Cesar Chavez.

In December, 1973, I left the UFW and moved in with my boyfriend.  Impressed with the decisive  role of lawyers in the farm workers' movement,  I took the LSAT and applied to Law School.  I worked to support myself by doing food preparation and packing for a small manufacturing company.  My boyfriend and I bought a house in East San Diego and I was enrolled at the University of San Diego Law School by August, 1974.  I worked in the food factory five days a week and went to law school at night.  I lasted 6 weeks in law school.  It was just too much.  I had to read 50+ pages a night to be prepared to brief cases for the next day, work 8 hours doing strenuous factory work, and try to maintain a relationship with my boyfriend.  I withdrew "in good standing" and thought I would go back to law school "later in life". I took a job with Canteen Corporation as a cashier and cafeteria worker at the San Diego Union Tribune newspaper, a job I really disliked for all the weird shifts they gave me, sometimes with less than 8 hours rest.  But I needed money because I had now enrolled  in a Graphic Communications class offered by the Regional Opportunity Program at El Cajon High School.  I learned to do graphics layout, plate making and printing. I graduated in 9 months and was immediately employed with Postal Instant Press as a printer, quitting that Canteen job.  I loved doing offset printing.  I enjoyed seeing a job go from concept to finished product. I was in an entry-level job in "instant printing" but longed to learn the craft of full color printing.  I worked for the PIP Corporation for about a year but my manager was a heroin addict and he embezzled money from the store and was caught.  The Company brought him back after he promised to pay retribution and entered a treatment program,  I found out he was stealing again and that he was still using heroin when I found his drug kit in the bathroom.  He tried to fire me and he generally made my life miserable until the company "closed" the store and tried to fire all of us when they found out he was embezzling money again.  I quit.  I thought I would find a better printing job but this was 1976 and it was still rare for women to be printers.  My mom was a printer for Moore Business Forms in the 50's and early 60's,  so now I knew what a good  job she had when mostly men did printing.  I applied at the Union Tribune for a web printing job. I applied at fine printing companies where I could do full-color printing on multi-head printing presses.  No interest from anyone and I couldn't even get an offer from an instant printing company.  I tried to apply for unemployment but since I had quit, they wouldn't give it to me.  I learned later in life when I became a union representative, that I had a "constructive quit" due to impossible working conditions.  I was now living by myself in a studio apartment, the rent was due, and I had exactly $40 in the bank.

I desperately looked at the classified ads for a job.  Burroughs, an electronic manufacturing company, was hiring trainees to do electronic assembly.  It was located in an industrial park in Rancho Bernardo, about a 30 minute drive north of San Diego.  I put in my application and upon leaving, I decided I might as well apply at the rest of the companies located there.  So I submitted applications at Sony and NCR for electronic assembler positions.  NCR called me the next day and hired me for $2.77 an hour on the night shift as an Electronic Assembler Trainee.  And that is how I came to work in the electronics manufacturing industry for the next 28 years.  Totally random and driven by economic necessity.  To be continued in Part 2.