Posted: January 23, 2014 in Uncategorized

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Dawn was just crossing over into existence when Tubularsock heard a soft rap on the door of his top floor corner office in his underground bunker in Oakland, CA overlooking Washington, D.C.

Immediately after the soft rap a small bundle of papers were slipped under the door and true to form the messenger was so stealth that no traces remained of the visit except the bundle of papers.

 “Drat”! was the expression one would have heard being emitted from Tubularsock’s mouth “but there weren’t nobody around!”

Now Tubularsock has to admit that when it comes to Steamfitters and Boilermakers Tubularsock has limited exposure of just what they do on the job.

The only knowledge of steamfitting is when Tubularsock goes to the WestEnd Gym and attempts to fit into their rather small steam room. And as far as boilermaker all you have to do is bring up Dick Cheney’s name and it makes-Tubularsock-boil. So lets call this for what it happen to be ……… limited knowledge and experience.

 Well lucky for you and Tubularsock someone who does know the ins and outs of the Steamfitters and Boilermakers Trades has come to the rescue.

 Stamboul is a retired Boilermaker. He was kind enough to send Tubularsock the following information and it is a fascinating peek into refinery work.

Also Tubularsock in his previous blog post had stated that at times to save money the oil refinery will have the workers install smaller pipes in the run. This was incorrect. What they do do is slip in a lower schedule (thickness) pipe as Stamboul will explain. All pipes in a refinery are required to have a proper schedule (thickness) as designed for their use.

 Thank you Stamboul for this contribution and your insights.

 Let me tell you a story: After WW-2, many of the local home boys returned to Richmond, Martinez, Concord, Pittsburg and Antioch. Many were Italian and Portuguese and the refineries in the bay area put them to work. Back then all the refineries had excellent training programs and they all had their own Boiler shops on the premises. The new hires worked an 8 hour day then went to training school in the refineries for another two hours with pay. After a five year apprentice program where they were trained to be Boilermakers and steamfitters on the job, they graduated and were master mechanics.



When I broke into the trades in the late 70’s these men were unit foremen’s and supervisors. Working out of the Boilermaker’s Union for Union contractors hired by the refineries to do maintenance work, I came across these old paisans in the various units I worked in. Here is what I observed about them: they knew there units backwards and forwards; they were master mechanics, and believed in union craftsmanship and would never hire non-union workers to repair their units; they were hard headed son of a bitches and yelled all the time, but if you worked hard and knew your shit, they would back you 100% and finally, they believed in running maintenance and were constantly repairing their units when things went wrong. One more thing about them, they were able to make decisions on the spot and most of the time they were right.


Things changed around 1985. The refineries force retired all these guys, imported crackers from Texas, Oklahoma and Louisiana to run these units. These jerks didn’t know their ass from a hole in the ground, didn’t have the nuts to make any decisions without checking first with Houston or wherever and ran these units into the ground.


The refineries here made a concerted effort to take maintenance work away from the unions and hire nothing but non-union contractors. These contractors in competition with each other bribed the unit foremen and I personally witnessed this myself at Chevron, Shell and Tosco. The refineries took a position of no more standing maintenance work in the units, and let the units go to hell until they exploded and then let the insurance pay for the repair.

oil can


I’m not going to get into it, but I worked many of the explosions that killed workers especially at Tosco and the causes were mostly utilizing the wrong schedule wall thickness of the pipe in the repair.  


No one puts the wrong size pipe in, but they do cheat by using the wrong schedule and bribing the inspectors who x-ray the pipe.

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  1. Well, I can certainly understand why this gets your goat up! To witness men dying when they needn’t, knowing all the while that assholes deliberately just ran shit into the ground. It must have been horrible. I just cannot imagine. And it is also sad, that unions are all but a thing of the past. Especially when they were formed because of greedy ass corporations abusing their workers and demanding that they work in untenable conditions until they literally dropped. And unfortunately, it seems as though we’re headed back in time. Sad state of affairs, sad indeed.

    A most insightful post Tube! And it is a true shame what happened to the knowledgeable workers who were replaced with crap!


    • tubularsock says:

      Thank you Shelby. It appears that if you are homeless and get kicked in the gutter or you are a tradesman and get kicked out the door it is the same people that are doing the kicking. This has to change!

      Thank you for taking the time to comment and I for one am happy that you are still kicking butt with your poems!


      • Oh bless your gorgeous, sweet heart Tube! I just get frustrated at times, which I am sure we ALL do! Of course, I am just more dramatic about it than most. That ‘gypsy’ blood and all, ya know! I’ll try and keep pounding ’em out, for all the good it does.


  2. Jeff Nguyen says:

    Your style reminds me of Greg Palast, Tubular. Where have all the investigative journalists gone?


  3. Kind of leaves you breathless, doesn’t it? I once had a patient was was an activist in the Boilermakers Union who was being harassed and scapegoated by a company that was trying to break the union. He unexpectedly committed suicide while sitting in Denny’s with a group of friends. He suddenly passed us under the table. Instead of calling an ambulance, the restaurant owner called detox. The van driver threw him in the back of the van, unconscious, and drove him all over Seattle. When he finally checked him four hours later, my patient was dead.

    At autopsy he had a toxic level of a tricyclic antidepressant in his blood. Which seems rather strange, given that the alleged overdose occurred while he was at Denny’s.

    The corporate elite play pretty rough when they don’t get their way.


    • tubularsock says:

      That is a tragic story SB. But it is true that the big boys play for keeps and then they take their families to church on Sundays!

      Thanks for your comment. Good thing Tubularsock carries a AK-47 all the time. Oh sure, it’s concealed under my shirt!


  4. MisBehaved Woman says:

    Very informative post, Tubular. My father worked in and around big industry construction sites like refineries and water treatment plants for years…it was around the mid-late 80’s that he noticed everything in the industry going to hell and got out of the field. When a bottle of whiskey smooths the way for the jobsite inspectors….

    Er, well. Booze, bribery and safety inspections…what could possibly be wrong with that combo?!


    • tubularsock says:

      MisBW thank you for your comment. I can’t tell you just how many times I have heard this same type story all over the country. And the thing that is so crazy is that everyone knows it. What does that say about our society? Now we have the stupidity to profess that industries can police themselves more efficiently than having those pesky government regulations. It sure worked well for the banks. It is interesting that there is the belief that anyone can become a millionaire and no where has this shown up more clearly than in the banking sector and in the tech sector. The part no one seems to notice is that all that gives the rest of us is putting up with the destruction of the new rich assholes! Cheers.


      • MisBehaved Woman says:

        For the record – my dad didn’t short-cut or bribe anyone. It was just accepted though that all of the contractors have a bottle of booze ready for inspection day…just in case – and even if you knew your work was 100% A-Okay. I overheard a man call the inspectors, “Textbook punks on a power trip” and well…pretty much lines up with Stamboul’s account of the change over in the big industries. Men with knowledge and know-how were replaced by Textbook Punks that’ll do anything for a buck. Gotta grab them millions, alright. Guess my dad grabbed the wrong pipe to paint on the money chase…no millions for him; just a terminal case of mesothelioma.

        Apparently some company took shortcuts on the safety regulations…asbestos was used for the filters in the respirators he wore. And those big settlements you hear about? If he sees a dime before he dies in a few months, it’ll be a miracle. If his *ahem* estate ever sees more than $5,000, I’d be stunned. Yay for big industry and all the opportunities it’s provided workers in this country, eh?


      • tubularsock says:

        MisBW, Tubularsock wasn’t scared. I wasn’t under the impression that your dad was running around bribing everyone. It is a sad situation for men like your dad to be in the health condition that he is in and suffering only because some company was able to make a little more money. As for a monetary settlement ……. what price is health? In Iraq when the U.S. killed a male child by accident the “settlement” price was $2500.00 the same as for the destruction of a farmer’s Toyota pickup. Like a life had a dollar value.

        The companies involved in your fathers faulting health could never pay enough to replace his health and his life but for them to dodge even that responsibility is just the outrageous on top of the outrage! Best to your family and you dad.


      • MisBehaved Woman says:

        Hahaha I had a real “oh shit” moment when it occurred to me that I may have given the impression he was not a straight-up kinda guy…he’d be mortified!
        No monetary value can make up for loss of life but wow, the big corporations sure like to give the spin version…”Oh ooops! We made mistakes in the past and are willing to pay because we’ve learned, changed are GOOD now.” Things are presented to seem that those days of killing people for profit are behind them when reality is the opposite. The 1st meso lawsuit was filed in the 1920’s…Dad wasn’t even born so if companies had changed, why was he exposed to asbestos filters in his respirator masks? Couldn’t be the stuff is just cheap to use, could it? Nah…! There’s a Superfund to prove they’re not like that anymore. Barf.


  5. But guys, be reasonable! Your average heartless blood-sucking corporation can barely survive these days with all the niggling, needless job-killing regulations and overkill nanny-state safety rules! Ever wondered why we don’t see Undercover Boss segments at Fukushima, any BP or Volero refinery, much less out on a factory fishing vessel? We’re just profit-fodder, folks, and they consider our lives less valuable all the time — billions of warm bodies where we came from. Only money is sacred, after all. – Linda


    • tubularsock says:

      Tubularsock is afraid you are correct, Linda. We are calculated into the profit/loss figures as collateral-damage and then placed on a chart to see the risk curve. The “average heartless blood-sucking corporation” knows that some people will die or they’ll get maimed and there’ll be property damage but if they can get those laws passed to protect them behind limited liability then the risk is a good investment. And hell, some people are just unlucky enough to be working on that pipe when it blows up ……. hey, that’s life.

      Thanks Linda for your insights and your attempt to keep us reasonable.


      • Tubularsock – Reasonable? Oh sure, it’s practically my middle name. Reasonable … responsible … respectable. And if you believe that, I’ve got some almost completely perfectly good-enough surplus pipe and fittings I can let you have for a ridiculously reasonable price. It’s hardly radioactive at all, and Tepco will never miss it. – Linda


      • tubularsock says:

        Ahhh, Tubularsock knew that you would expose your true capitalistic spirit. The fact that the pipes and fittings are “hardly radioactive” gives Tubularsock that special sense of safety and inspection. I’ll take them!


  6. MisBehaved Woman says:

    After I cruised away from here, I found this at the top of my YT feed. Thought you might find it interesting…


  7. ” I’ve got some almost completely perfectly good-enough surplus pipe and fittings I can let you have for a ridiculously reasonable price. It’s hardly radioactive at all, and Tepco will never miss it.”

    She just kills me! LMAO!! I am SO sorry! I know that this isn’t supposed to be a funny post, but with Linda’s comment, I couldn’t help but collapse and fall to the floor in ‘helpless’ laughter. And I can just ‘see’ her saying all of that with a ‘straight’ face. Or it could be that I have become infected by some of the radiated surplus pipe fittings that I had installed since I’m sniffling and ‘under the weather’. I may just be having a fit of the hysterics. A shot of brandy should soon put me to rights. So sorry for disrupting the award winning journalism of the year, journalist’s contribution to expose all things corrupt, radioactive and never above board. Congrats and all that on your ‘Jeffster Award’! Richly deserved, what!


    • tubularsock says:

      Thanks Shelby, the Jeffster Award was too fun. Linda does have her ways …”hardly radioactive” says it all! Hope you feel better. A shot of brandy is always helpful but a bottle works wonders ………..


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