Yep, you read that right. I was sent to Tulsa for an undetermined amount of time and told to work 12 hour days, 6 days a week. The only way I could say no was to quit my job. I couldn’t quit. IT WAS ROUGH to say the least.
I work for a large Fortune 15 company. Thousands of workers at this company are union workers. The union went on strike last summer and because of that, those non-union employees (ME!) had to up and leave their lives as they knew it and do the union workers jobs. There were a lot of bad things about this (good things too- I’ll get to that), but I think the worst part was not knowing how long we would be gone.
We knew there was a possibility of a strike the previous August 2015. The union and the company did not agree on a new contract, but at the time, the union decided to continue to work without one. That lasted many months and most of us forgot about the possibility of a strike. Then, April 2016 rolled around and they went on strike. Seemingly out of nowhere. When I think back to that time, it brings back so many emotions. I was anxious, scared, and unsure of what to expect.
Two days after the strike announcement a lot of my co-workers were on planes to their “EWA job” (Emergency Work Assignment). I knew that my EWA job was my actual job I did daily. That meant I would not be shipped off (at least I thought so) and I would be responsible for my job and the jobs of some of my co-workers who were gone for the foreseeable future. I could handle that. It meant long days and working 6 days a week, but I was lucky that I could go home each night to my family and my bed.
And then.. about a week later, I got the call. I had to go to Tulsa. They needed more bodies in that office. I WAS IN SHOCK to say the least. I remember vividly my boss telling me I had to be on a plane that Thursday, but I was freaking out because my husband was traveling and wouldn’t be home until Friday. Oh and not to mention we have a 9 year old and no family nearby to watch him. I could not stop crying. I remember being so afraid. I had never been gone for more than 4 nights from my son and they were telling me that I had to go to Tulsa for an undetermined amount of time. Basically ALONE.
After many tears and phone calls, I was able to get a one way flight out Friday, after Jason got home. I packed a few bags, booked a hotel for 30 days (because that was what the company wanted us to do). I kept telling myself “Overtime, Overtime, Overtime”. I knew I would get paid really well if I was sent to Tulsa to work 72 hours a week. But I still did NOT want to go.
When I arrived, I was thankful to have a co-worker also in the same department. She had been there from the start, so she was able to help me a lot. She introduced me to some people she met, showed me the office, and helped me get settled in to my new (possibly everlasting) job. I did realize I was lucky to have a desk job, because there were plenty of other people in the company who were assigned to climbing poles and installing fiber. NO THANKS
. Sitting for 72 hours a week was SUPER PAINFUL
, but it was a heck of a lot better than that. Fortunately there were no picket lines in Tulsa either (compared to the East Coast).
We were treated very well in Tulsa. The building had a cafeteria, a workout room, and it was LARGE so we could go for walks to stretch out each day. I stayed in a nice hotel, had my own rental car, and charged all of my meals outside the office on the company credit card. The people were all very friendly and though we were all just meeting, we all had this in common. I remember feeling very alone at times, but I recognized that we all felt that way.
During this time, I missed my family immensely. I missed my son’s first play performance, swim team, end of the school year events. It just about killed me (That’s dramatic- but it did break my heart). I was SOOO thankful for Facetime because I was actually able to help my son do homework some evenings. He read to me at night on his Ipad and we were still able to “see” each other most days.
I ended up being in Tulsa for 5 weeks. Thankfully, I was able to go home for a few days after the first 3 weeks because it was my 40th birthday. I returned for 2 weeks and the strike ended Memorial Weekend.
I learned so many things from the strike. I learned that I am so much stronger than I thought I was. I survived it and because of all the overtime, I took our family on a Disney Cruise when I got back!
After the strike, I wrote a list of things that I learned and some thoughts I had while in Tulsa:
1. A few years ago, I wasn’t sure I could be away from AJ for more than 2 nights. Then 5 nights. Then a week. Now we can, while neither or us like it, survive 3 weeks.
2. I realize how hard it is to be a parent/ partner who can’t help out. It sucks and I feel helpless, but I am so thankful Jason can and does handle things.
3. I miss my friends and knowing what they are up too- getting a text is a highlight of my day.
4. It is embarrassing to admit, but this place humbles me- I guess I thought I was too good for Oklahoma. I realize that is not the case.
5. I have no idea where to go during a tornado. I assume the nice gals at the front desk will tell me when I need to know?
6. 72 hour work weeks are looooooooong. I’m not the only one doing them, but they still suck.
7. It’s really great being with other people who are not used to doing this, and feeding off their positive energy; the morale is still great in my office – though I am not sure how much longer that will last.
8. Networking… It’s a good thing. I have been able to meet a lot of people who I have spoken to on the phone but never met in person.
9. It costs me $3.50 to do one load of laundry a week. The rest I dry clean (and I put that on the company credit card).
10. It’s both a blessing and a curse to be walking distance from chain restaurants like Red Robin and Lone Star Steakhouse.
11. Tulsa really is a beautiful place! I expected just a lot of dirt. But it’s full of greenery and it is FLAT!
12. It sounds so stupid, but I am connecting with the hotel staff and will miss seeing them daily.
13. As hard as it is to be here, I have NO RESPONSIBILITY other than showing up for work. I never cook, I never clean, I only do my laundry, and I don’t spend much money (because I don’t have time!)
14. Now that I got through EWA, there are times I wish we could do it again (I CANNOT BELIEVE I AM SAYING THAT!) The money was THAT good!
In the end, I am thankful I went to Tulsa for many reasons. I realized how much strong I am mentally. I met some wonderful people and have some awesome memories. There is no way I would have ever considered going to Oklahoma, but now I can say I’ve been there. And because of all this, our family went on an amazing vacation. I am glad it only lasted 5 weeks! And even happier that it can’t happen again for the next 4 years!
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