The first Saturday spent piece-working was filled with tension as I imagined being surprised by a group of Business Agents, who would fine us for our infractions. Oddly enough, the fine was just about what you might earn for a days work.
As it turned out, no one showed up to fine us and at the end of a day, I had “nailed off” enough drywall to make a journeyman’s wages for the day, about $40. Cash. I had also left a trail of blood on the walls where I had been working. Alex would have been proud!
I was hooked. I enjoyed the extra cash and I must admit that I also enjoyed the camaraderie that existed among the piece-workers. We negotiated the prices and we were free to work or not. It was a very free market!
At the end of six months of employment I received another increase in my wages and the outlook for work to continue was good. The jobs were mostly small ones and “nail on”, not metal framing.
At this time, the Lathers Union claimed to have jurisdiction over all metal framing and were going to court to uphold that claim. The Carpenters Union was ambivalent about the case as they weren’t all that interested in metal framing. Wood framing was their bread and butter and the lathers weren’t threatening that.
The drywall trade saw metal framing as a step up towards legitimacy and so members of the drywall contractors associations were encouraged to bid on and secure metal framing jobs. And when a drywall contractor was successful; the lathers were quick to post a picket line on the job, halting work and forcing the general contractor to step in and resolve the dispute; usually in favor of the Lathers Union.
The drywall contractors position was that a material (steel studs) couldn’t be part of a trade dispute. The manufacturers sold the studs to anyone and so anyone was free to use them. And that was when the Lathers Union decided to claim jurisdiction over the tools that were being used.
In a short time, new tools had been improvised and began to be used. The Lathers were on the defensive now. Exciting times!