nobody gives a shit about us…….

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randy’s grandfather once lived in this house which sits boarded up now next to the closed champion/stimson/bonner mill near missoula montana.

randy agrees to meet at river city grill in Bonner for coffee on the way to his shift at wal-mart. he points out historic photos of loggers on the wall. “some of those guys were friends of my grandfather’s. our family logged and worked in montana  for generations. we were loggers and millwrights and it’s in our blood so much when we blow our noses sawdust comes out. now it’s over with and nobody gives a shit about us.”

randy is not joking. he’s not mad. just matter of fact. like most blue-collar workers, randy mistrusts those who say they are trying to help. life is now all about combing a wal-mart parking lot in missoula for stray carts for a less than sufficient wage that he is grateful for.

“hell, my brother laughed at me when i got this job at wal-mart last summer. i used to drive one of the biggest yard log loaders….made  twice what i make now loading rail cars….he was a foreman, made twice what i made. now he’s still on unemployment, and today he envies my job. told me i made a smart move. wal-mart’s one of the only places left in the country where you can count on not getting laid off as long as you show up and do your job…their business is growing….i can’t remember the last time i ever thought that about logging and milling timber. must’ve been around the mid eighties i guess.”

randy has 3 kids and his wife wanda is a dental technician. they have managed to keep their heads above water but it has not been easy. randy had to sell off his nice truck and now makes the commute from the familily’s  small mobile home in turah in a fifteen year old toyota celica with a crumpled fender and bald tires. the clock is showing us both that it’s time to go to work. randy leaves a couple of bucks on the table and gets up to leave. he pushes on the wal-mart baseball cap and slips his orange parking lot attendent reflective vest over his broad and still young shoulders….

“never ever thought i would say i was lucky to work for wal-mart. but i guess i am…”

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10 Comments

  1. […] any real attempt to alleviate the suffering of folks who just don’t think they give a shit about them anymore. No Comments Leave a Commenttrackback addressThere was an error with your comment, please try […]

  2. Wow. Thanks for sharing this story.

  3. Hi Problembear, here’s a blog I think you’d like: http://www.informationarbitrage.com/index.html
    Sorry about the irrelevance to your (awesome) walmart post but he’s posted some good stuff recently and I thought you might like to give it a read.

  4. it’s pretty relevant because the guy knows his stuff about the inner workings of the financial system. will definitely add this to my links thanks tara- PB

  5. So…what happened to the timber industry in Montana?

  6. nice of you to visit gregg. admire many aspects of electric city very much. especially your work to achieve transparency in great falls local government issues. answer; we could schedule a two week conference on that topic with all the experts in the state and barely touch the surface of why. but blue collar people are not interested in why. they just want to survive the aftermath. it is sad to watch folks lose their dreams. the vanishing middle class of blue collar workers are the invisible ones who are struggling to come to grips with a changing economy. back in the early seventies my grandfather who was a right of way logger did not allow me to work in his crummy because he didn’t want me to follow him. even back then he saw the end coming. i have always had a special place in my heart for woods workers. even while working for the designation of wilderness areas i would never allow anyone near me to put the workers down. timber executives were fair game to me – but not the workers these people are the most honest salt of the earth folks on earth. they deserve better than the way they were treated by the timber industry.

  7. Do you think that environmentalism plays a role in the demise of the timber industry?

  8. just off the top of my head gregg, the most relevant factors are weighted as most important at the top and descending
    1. lack of a market for finished lumber due to the bush crash 70%
    2. little or no tariffs on imported wood made our products uncompetitive 15%
    3. over-cutting by champion in the eighties. 10%
    4. enactment of environmental laws to protect resources 5%

    your serve.

  9. No serve, PB. I was actually going to make some snarky remark, but you’ve always behaved yourself at my place, so I thought I’d avoid being a wiseass this Saturday and see what you really think.

    Weren’t the mills in trouble over there long before this current downturn (we can argue another time whether it was all Bush’s fault)?

    Would the converse of no tariffs be high wages for loggers that act as a sort of ‘tariff’ on our own products?

    Over-cutting? Did the mills close because there’s no timber to cut?

    Again, I am not trying to pick a fight. I truly like the dialogue. In fact, if I could change things at my place I would.

  10. all excellent questions gregg and probably worthy of someone more knowledgeable to answer, with more time to answer them. certainly gentlemen can honestly disagree but will give it a try in short answers;

    1. it was a slow slide downhill due to market (demand) conditions primarily starting about 10 years ago, when cheaper products from canada began to take over the market. the slide accelerated in the past 3 years due to lack of demand.

    2. decent wages have not been seen in the timber industry since at least the low eighties- that includes contractors like timber fallers and truck drivers. weak unions and bad market conditions have doomed payscales since about 1982.

    3. overcutting company lands certainly forced company foresters to seek out more expensive timber elsewhere further eroding already slim profit margins.

    now i have a question for you gregg. would it have been better in the long run to have deregulated the timber industry like we did with the banking industry?


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