E.R. Bills calls himself a "blue-collar guy", a part-time
freelance writer and a full-time construction labourer, with past experience
working at the Lockheed Martin plant in
Thanks to an incendiary opinion column yesterday in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, calling out slack working habits at the Lockheed factory, Bills may also add whistleblower and community lightning rod to his list.
It's not every day you see a newspaper and a writer taking one of the town's largest employers to task in such critical terms. For example, Bills writes in the column headlined "Slacking on the taxpayer's dime":
If you walk into Lockheed Martin's
plant at any time on any given workday, you'll find an inordinate number of employees doing anything except work. You'll see people asleep in fuselages; taking repeated, extended coffee breaks; discussing the sports page; playing dominoes; and watching the clock. Anything to pass the time and make the day. Fort Worth
It's the ultimate gravy train, and you and I foot the bill.
Things have been that way out there for years, even back when the place was called General Dynamics. For the last few decades, only an embarrassing cross-section of the folks who work out there actually perform an honest day's labor and, in Lockheed Martin's case, this probably speaks to why its infamous Marine One helicopter and F-35 joint strike fighter are behind schedule and over budget.
I called Bills yesterday to find out how the community has reacted to such criticisms.
Bills says he's not "terribly bashful about saying things". He says the working habits at "places like Bell Helicopter and Lockheed Martin" have been the same and well-known in the community for many years. The most annoying part about it, for him, is that the workers are "mostly conservative Republicans ... and it's just very hypocritical to me".
"I am getting a lot of bad feedback. I didn't know the union is coming up for contract negotiations in two weeks. The editor has said watch your back because they are p-----," Bills said.
Bills freely admits it's been several years since he's
walked inside the
"When I was out there it was a joke. You have to take two breaks. It's hard to get anything done. My experience was I saw working up high in the plant and looking out in the plant ... people are asleep in fuselages. And, you know what, they don't even deny it. I've gotten notes today from employees, and they just asked, 'Did you ask him if it was his break time'? They know. And same thing with the dominos. They'll just tell you, 'Sometimes we have to wait on material.' Sometimes there is that. And there are hard working people out there. But there's a lot of goofing off.
"It's a legitimate gripe as a taxpayer."