Sunday, March 22, 2009

Adios a Pedro

In construction, as in love, it pays to appreciate what you have today knowing that it may be gone tomorrow.
Perhaps ten months ago I had a chat with Juan about how he came to be where he is, doing what he is doing. It seems that he and his uncle Pedro had for some time worked in construction for the same contractor. The contractor ran a busy, far-ranging business all over the Westside, San Fernando Valley, Simi Valley, Ventura, etc. There was apparently no shortage of work, but the guy was lax about paying his employees and would often be weeks behind payroll. Many of his employees would only show up on Monday because they knew that the likelihood of being paid in full, though slim, was extremely doubtful if they did not report for work at all. Both Juan and Pedro were weeks behind in their salaries and what with family responsibilities, bills to pay, children to clothe, etc., the situation grew daily more frustrating. For obvious reasons Juan knew this sort of thing could not keep up forever, so he began to cast about for other opportunities and eventually ended up doing work for Greg, our architect and then, on Greg’s recommendation, for me.
Pedro always showed up for work early, sometimes napping in his truck while waiting for the city’s official 8:00 AM start time. So, one morning when I didn’t see him I asked Juan where he was. Juan explained that he was finished here and went to work on another job. Though disappointed to find that Pedro was not going to be around, I figured that Juan meant that he’d shifted his uncle to another one of his projects in the area. Pedro’s skills as a craftsman and problem-solver make him a very valuable aide-de-camp. But no, it seems that Pedro was lured back to work for the contractor for whom he had formerly worked. I guess a deal was struck whereby Pedro got his back-pay and some sort of guarantee that he would be properly (and promptly?) reimbursed in the future. At least I hope so.
Juan seemed at least as sorry as I was to see Pedro go. He was invaluable as a coordinator of labor, and with his leaving it is clear that Juan will have to take over a much larger share of the day-to-day supervision. Juan knew, as I did, that if he had to show up to my property every day and closely monitor the progress he would have to cut back on other jobs he may have had in the works. Or would I be the one who got the short end of the stick? As it turned out, we both felt the pain in very different ways.

No comments: