After awhile, even my best efforts (and math errors) couldn’t get us a job. The work at Topanga Plaza slowed to a crawl and Modern Drywall Systems had to lay us off with a promise to hire us again quickly…as soon as work picked up.
When I had made the decision to make construction a career, I hadn’t really thought about the layoffs. And now I was faced with the second layoff in just over a year.
Since Babe and I were laid off at the same time, we connected with a plan to do some piece working. Babe’s uncle, Mike Linkof, knew of a certain contractor (Ralph Stearman) that was just beginning a project nearby, Fallbrook Square. And so we went to talk to him and see if we couldn’t get a job.
Luck was with us. It seemed that Modern Drywall was the only company without a lot of work. The Topanga Plaza mall shops had taken up most of the available labor and Ralph had a very large shopping center to complete and no one wanted to work for him at the usual piece work rates; not when they could work by the hour and work at a slower pace as well.
We weren’t so picky, so after a brief negotiation on the price, we went to work on the Sears store, doing backerboard ceilings. Ralph was paying 2.5 cents a foot and so we needed to hang (install) about 60 4’x12’ sheets a day. And after about one day, it became obvious that there was no way we could hang more than 50 sheets because of the fact that lathers had framed the ceilings and hadn’t done a very good job of it. It was time to re-negotiate!
Poor Ralph. He had about 200,000 square feet of drywall already on the job and more trucks showing up daily. And he had two drywall hangers; us. And we wanted more money. We told him where we would be if he wanted us and then sat in a restaurant across the street from the project and waited for him to decide. It took him about 4 hours before he joined us for lunch and to tell us that he would raise the price. We agreed on 3 cents for the Sears project and all future projects would be subject to new negotiations. And then we gave him the bill for lunch.