Old School Blue-Collar Workers


In this blog, I’ve told you about my being a drug smuggler and confidential informant and some of my painful upbringing, but I haven’t addressed my early, happy days at American before I got into trouble.

Also, my last blog about luggage thieves really hit a nerve, so I wanted to show that there are also good, hard-working people in the airline industry.

I was hired by American Airlines in the late 80’s and immediate found a home. I was a part-time employee with a 4-hour shift working weekends and making $5.77 an hour. Not much, I know, but it was better than working for my criminal father.

I started at the Burbank, Glendale, Pasadena Airport, now called Bob Hope Airport. The old-timers, with an average of 25 years or more with the company, took me under their wing, taking the time to teach me how to work around aircraft correctly and safely. They taught me to treat the equipment and passengers’ personal belonging as if they were my own. They really cared about how we looked to the passengers watching us through the airplane windows.

My first week on the job the workers played practical jokes on me. On my second day of work, “Jorge” was the first to greet me in the break room. He told me that my shift was changed to the evening, and that I should go home. Five minutes after I got home, my crew chief called and told me to get my butt back to work. Good one, Jorge.

The next day I was in the break room with Jorge and picked up the sports page. Within a few minutes it lit up like a Christmas tree. It was on fire! And there was Jorge, with his cigarette, the cause of it all, dying of laughter.

I got him back on my fourth day. He was eating a sandwich and I told him that the big boss was looking for him in the other break room. While he was gone, I ate the rest of his sandwich. That ended his reign of terror and we became good friends.

Within 14 months, I was upgraded to a full-time employee at LAX. And after I transferred to Miami International Airport I was promoted to Crew Chief, where I helped managed 1000 employees a day. I covered all the holes and when the supervisor and manager went on vacation, I covered their positions too. I was offered their jobs but declined because they weren’t Union. By this point, I was also working as a Skycap and promoted to Skycap captain, so I was plenty busy, as I’ve told you before.

That success was possible because the old-timers trained me to properly care for my workplace and my co-workers. I regret that I later betrayed that trust. It was truly an honor and a pleasure to work with them.

I would like to thank American Airlines for the opportunities they gave me and apologize for my criminal behavior. While it’s true that some of their choices allowed smuggling to flourish, that was not their intent, and we who participated are responsible….JJ Gonzalez

The complete story of my time on the ramp will be in my forthcoming memoir, The Baggage Handler.

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11 Responses to Old School Blue-Collar Workers

  1. kilaheem says:

    Where is this picture from? Nice read.

  2. My dad worked for world wide flight services for American Airlines at MIA. He loved it. I’m so glad you had some really happy times, and very glad you didn’t fully catch fire 🙂

  3. I’m learning so much from reading your posts. Thanks for the follow.

  4. The decline in standards is so sad – especially as it is society-wide and not just airlines. Your book should be a beauty!

  5. Nice appetizer, can’t wait for the memoir.

  6. binelectric says:

    Thanks for following my blog!
    I never have seen a blog like your’s before, sounds very interesting.

  7. Bobby Dias says:

    About the now-Bob Hope Airport: around 1959-1960 I started an aerial seeding program for the US Forestry Service out of that airport, me being about 13 years old. And I had the 3rd half hour of The Tonight Show with Jack Paar. Sometimes I had to go to the airport straight from the NBC studios in Burbank in my bright and a little fancy clothes, for which the airport people started to kid me-I kidded them right back about every little wrinkle and stain and difference in the uniforms and hair styles or whatever I could! Good nature competition. A little slouching or too too casual attitude- I was thinking like a customer like you said in your story. You said: “The old-timers, with an average of 25 years or more” are the ones that I had kidded. Even years later I would visit to make a surprise inspection- an excuse to have fun with them. I am glad that a sense of humor was passed on to you but most of all that personal appearence and conduct that I and your old-timers developed. Some people call it love. Keep it flowing.

  8. 2max Kochi says:

    Good luck with your book.

  9. 1)Thanks for subscribing to my blog. 2) i just started reading yours and its so amazing and informative. Will definitly be getting my hands on the book when it comes out.

  10. G the artist says:

    I will look forward to your book. People don’t take as much pride in their I have to get it done now work so I can text or play games.

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