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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