July 24, 2005

The Warehouse — Jimbo the Teamster.

Filed under: Uncategorized — Jim @ 8:11 pm

Tires stacked.jpgBackground
When it comes to discovering Blogfodder, today I feel a bit like a prospector who regularly looks all over the place for gold, only to stumble on a large deposit of the stuff in his own backyard. I don’t remember what caused me to think about a place I worked for two summers while in college, but once I began to take myself back in time, I realized that those two summers provided me with memorable experiences, a few important lessons in life, a boatload of laughs, and, yes, a few untold (at least unwritten) stories.

So, I suppose it’s time I get to writing some of them down. The stories are all true (to the best of my recollection), even though the names of the real people involved are fictitious.

So, here we go.

The Job
In the mid-sixties, with the help of my uncle, who had some Tony Soprano type influential friends in the Teamster’s Union, I worked at one of the East Coast warehouses of a nationally known tire company (We’ll call it “Tireco”). The Tireco warehouse was a one-story sprawling, ugly building located, along with other ugly buildings in what today would be all spruced up and called an “Industrial Park.” To get there, one had to take an unnamed “factory road,” which was more pothole than pavement. It cut through knee-high weeds and trash that had been tossed out of countless car and truck windows.

Charming place.

It had a loading dock large enough to accommodate about six trucks, and on the opposite side of the building was a door at a railroad siding, which permitted a freight car to be pulled up to the place. Tires of all types and sizes came in on freight cars and large trailers. From this inventory, orders for the various Tireco stores on the East Coast were filled. Except for two fork lift trucks that permitted entire pallets of tires to be moved and stacked (each pallet had galvanized steel pipes on them in order to permit them to be stacked three high), all the tires were moved, stacked, loaded and unloaded by hand. My job was to help the other five or six guys there move, stack, load and unload them all.

It was hard, physical and often dirty work, and the guys who worked there were hard, physical and often dirty men. Back then, the “going rate” for Local 478 Warehousemen was $2.91 per hour. Compared to my friends who were working summer jobs for a buck an hour, I was in Fat City. Some of the men there were raising families on $2.91 per hour.

The boss (the Warehouse Manager) was a nervous, pacing, always grouchy guy named Tony Gussomanno, who had a speech impediment that made him sound like Daffy Duck.

The Swearing-In
In order to work there, I had to join Local 478 of the Teamster’s Union, which required that I show up at the Union Offices on Broad Street in Newark on an appointed evening to be sworn in. I don’t know what the heck I was thinking, but I put on a jacket and tie for the occasion. When I arrived at the place I knew instantly that I was overdressed, overeducated and underage. The room was full of smoke and guys who looked like Tony Soprano’s crew. There were about a half-dozen other guys being sworn in on that night, and they had obviously gotten the dress memo, because they came in their grimy work clothes.

The guy who swore us in was right out of Central Casting for the part of a Jersey Capo. He began,

”I, state your name, …”

And I’ll be damned if two of the guys, instead of stating their name, said:

“I, state your name…”

Right out of the Marx Brothers. Anyway the Capo and the new guys stumbled through the oath that would turn us new guys (including Yours Truly, the college puke in the jacket and tie) into Teamsters.

On about the second or third day on the job, I heard the guys involved in a heated discussion with the Shop Steward. It seems that word had somehow reached the warehouse that management had arranged with the a temporary help agency to send over a couple men to work in the warehouse. As I recall, they were not going to be there for the requisite number of days for them to be required to join the union. The problem, however, was that the temp agency was getting the $2.91 hour rate, and paying the guys less than $2.91.

The Shop Steward and the men were certain that this violated the union contract, which, according to them, called for a warehouseman to be paid $2.91 per hour, and they were mightily pissed (and concerned that this practice would somehow ultimately work to their disadvantage). In fact they were pissed enough to call “Joey” Cozzolino, the union representative, to complain.

Joey was a well-known local scrapper and union leader who almost always got his way, and when he didn’t get his way, things could get pretty nasty. (Ultimately, “getting his way” would result in Joey spending the better part of the last few years of his life in Lewisburg Federal Prison.)

An hour or so later, I heard the guys hollering from one end of the warehouse to the other, “Joey’s here!”

I gathered with the rest of the guys to watch the confrontation between Joey and Tony, the Warehouse Manager, who was considerably bigger than Joey. The confrontation had begun in the warehouse office, where the basic facts of the dispute were laid out, but eventually it spilled out onto the platform. I recall that Joey must have had a sty in one of his eyes, because he was continually wiping it with a handkerchief during the exchange between him and Tony. Clearly, Joey wanted the “getting his way” part to be done in full view of the men.

Note: The following works better if you remember that Tony said his “S’s” like Daffy Duck.

Tony: “Hey, Cossssolino you think you run dis f**kin’ plashe? Well, I got newsh for ya. You don’t run dis f**kin’ plashe! I run dis f**kin’ plashe.”

Joey: “Maybe I don’t run dis f**kin’ place, but I do run dis f**kin’ union, and dose guys you’re bringin’ on gotta get da ‘rate” and not one f**kin’ penny less. You understand me?”

Tony: “Bullsssssssshit! Dose guyssss aren’t gonna be here long enough to have to join the f**kin’ union, and what I pay them is none of your f**kin’ busssssssinesssss.”

Joey: (Wiping his leaking eye for the umpteenth time and becoming red-faced with anger) “None of my f**kin’ business? None of my f**kin’ business? Read the f**kin’ contract, Tony! If necessary, I’ll show you that it’s my f**kin’ business. Don’t f**k with me.”

Tony: “Are you threatening me, you little Ginny bassssssstard? [It’s true. A “Gussomanno” was calling a “Cozzolino” a Ginny bastard. Go figure.] Waddya think you’re gonna do? Get the f**k outta thisssss terminal!”

Joey: “Listen to me, you loudmouthed prick, I’ll show ya what I’m gonna do. I’ll pull all the f**kin’ guys off this f**kin’ job. That’s what the f**k I’ll do!”

Tony: “F**k you, Cosssssolino. You can’t pull thessssssse guysssssss off the f**kin’ job. If you try it, I’ll fire their asssssssesssss!”

Joey: (Now madder than shit) “Watch your f**kin’ mouth, Tony. I already told you – ‘Don’t f**k with me.’”

Tony: “And I already told you. Get the f**k out of thissssss f**kin’ terminal! In two f**kin’ minutessssss, I’m callin’ the f**kin’ copsssss!”

Joey: “You got a big f**kin’ mouth, Tony.” (Turning toward the men) “THAT’S IT! EVERYBODY OFF THE F**KIN’ JOB!!!”

I turned to the guys and said, “So, what do we do now?”

Several of them said, “It’s a ‘Wildcat’ we’re walkin’ off the job.” By this time, Joey was outside getting picket signs out of the trunk of his Cadillac. He handed me a sign and said, “Here, hold this and walk up and down in front of the platform.”

As I made my first pass in front of the warehouse, the biggest and toughest of the guys, Mike Volinski, stopped me and said, “You ever been on picket duty before, Kid?”

I responded, “No, what’s the deal?”

He said, “It’s simple. You just hold the sign and walk up and down in front of the terminal.”

I said, “No problem. I can do that.”

He then smiled, winked and said, “And, if anyone tries to cross the line, we bust his f**kin head.”

After a short time (less than a half hour), Joey had apparently gotten his way. Happily, no one got his head busted, and we returned to work.

I knew then and there that it was going to be an interesting summer.


  1. Great story. I once got fired from a cabinet shop because I had to join a union affiliated with the carpenters union for my job at school. Those guys are like talmudic scholars with the rule book. And it’s always a good idea not to f**k with them.

    Comment by Sluggo — July 24, 2005 @ 9:13 pm

  2. I can just see a young Irish kid doing picket duty with a bunch of tough guys. Probably a good thing nobody tried to cross the line, eh? 🙂

    Comment by DMerriman — July 24, 2005 @ 10:17 pm

  3. In light of today’s AFL/CIO news…

    I’m pleased to be able to point you to the blog of a fellow who has had experience with the unions, first hand. One of the things you really don’t get a flavor for when you grow up in Georgia,…

    Trackback by Cadillac Tight — July 24, 2005 @ 10:34 pm

  4. I’m not much of a joiner, but I had no choice since the union started taking dues out of my very first check when I became a teacher.

    One day, the union wanted us to do informational picketing in front of the school. (Our contract expired in 2003 but no one realizes that the fact that we don’t have a new one is as much the union’s fault as the city’s.) Walking in a circle with a sign is not my cup of tea, so I snuck into the building. Later, I was bombarded with questions about where I was.

    When we had an issue at the end of the year over seniority and classroom assignments, I was pressured into filing a grievance. If I didn’t, it would have nullified grievances for two other teachers who would have been really pissed at me. I did it to maintain harmony, but made my own side deal in exchange for my grievance being denied since I had no real issue with my new assignment.

    Ah, politics.

    Comment by marydell — July 25, 2005 @ 8:57 am

  5. .. Jimbo the Teamster… with great farooking hair… that’d have been a sight..

    Comment by Eric — July 25, 2005 @ 8:59 am

  6. And dang if those “I, state your name” people don’t pass the driver’s license tests. Mweh.

    Comment by dogette — July 25, 2005 @ 1:43 pm

  7. “Joey’s here!”

    One of the ways college kids made money back in my youthful days in northern New Jersey was to “shape up” at one of the many local warehouses and shipping terminals. When one “made the shape,” he was presenting himself…

    Trackback by Jack Bog's Blog — July 26, 2005 @ 4:37 am

  8. “Joey’s here!”

    One of the ways college kids made money back in my youthful days in northern New Jersey was to “shape up” at one of the many local warehouses and shipping terminals. When one “made the shape,” he was presenting himself…

    Trackback by Jack Bog's Blog — July 26, 2005 @ 4:55 am

  9. OMG – that is hysterical. I’ve been trying to find time to read the whole thing for the last few days – glad I finally got it – well worth the trouble. Can’t wait to hear the rest of the stories!!!

    Comment by Teresa — July 28, 2005 @ 10:50 pm

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