Right after graduating from high school in the spring of 1976, I went to work at Beech Aircraft Corporation (now Hawker Beechcraft) in Wichita, Kansas. My father was a Beechcrafter, a factory-line sheet-metal worker â€“ and he had learned that the company had a policy of hiring college-bound kids of employees for summer work. So there was really no question of whether or not I would do it. I needed cash for school, and no other summer job would pay as well.
This is how I became a member, for three consecutive summers, of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (the IAMAW, or simply IAM).
I remember the hire-on procedure quite well, especially the first time: I filled out a long application form, then sat at a desk across from a necktied Company representative who scowled at the form and asked me the same questions to which I had already written answers. Then, once the Company man verified that I was the son of a twenty-year factory employee and that I wasnâ€™t a goddamn hippie drug addict (yes, he asked, although not quite in those words), I was told that I was hired . . . and sent around a corner to the Union desk.