Tag Archives: working in Dickinson North Dakota

Truth About The Work Situation In Dickinson, North Dakota

In the past two weeks, I have written three blog posts about three different couples that I have seen moving out of the low rent older apartment building where I live in downtown Dickinson, North Dakota.  Each of these three couples had moved to Dickinson about six months ago, and now they are leaving Dickinson.

Every day there are radio advertisements from local companies in Dickinson about how they offer competitive wages, paid family health insurance, and $3,000 to $6,000 sign-on bonuses.  About once each week, there is a representative from North Dakota Job Services talking about hundreds of job openings in Williston, Watford City, and Dickinson.  Yet when I log on to the North Dakota Job Services website and I search for jobs in Williston, Watford City, and Dickinson, there are fewer than forty current job openings in each of these towns, and one third of them are for medical professionals.

What is really going on?  To explain, I want to write about an experience that I had yesterday on Saturday November 10, 2018, in Dickinson:

I went to a gas station in Dickinson that I normally do not go to.  Working at the cash register, was a man that I had worked with in Dickinson seven years ago, back in 2011.  He is about 6′-3″, 300 lb, able-bodied, fairly intelligent, and he is from Dickinson.

In 2011, this man was the operations manager for the small oil field service company where I worked.  He was in charge of the crew trucks, equipment trailers, skid steers, backhoe, scissor lifts, snorkel lifts, lull, generators, compressors, compactors, and other tools.  He operated equipment in the company yard, and at the job sites where we worked.

This company where we worked constructed pump jack concrete foundation pads at oil field locations, salt waters disposal facilities, steel warehouse buildings, and performed work at several different refineries.  The operations manager ordered material for the work that was performed, and he sometimes supervised the work that was performed.

The operations manager did a pretty good job over all.  He worked at this small oil field service company for several years, before going to work for a supplier of oil field tools and equipment for several years.

Why is this big, strong, able-bodied, fairly intelligent, competent, local person, with ten years of experience working in the oil field, working as a cashier at gas station in Dickinson, if there are supposed to be hundreds of job openings in Williston, Watford City, and Dickinson?

In my recent blog posts titled “The Truth About Living And Working In Dickinson, North Dakota”, “Truth And Lies About Living And Working In Dickinson, North Dakota”, and “Even More Truth And Lies About Living And Working In Dickinson, North Dakota”,  I have tried to explain that business people, property owners, property managers, and oil field companies are trying to “keep things going” by spreading false information.  They want to keep people moving to Dickinson to do business, so that the value of their properties remain high, to rent or lease properties, and to have a large pool of skilled labor in order to keep wages low.

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Even More Truth And Lies About Living And Working In Dickinson, North Dakota

Today, Saturday November 10, 2018, I am yet again watching a couple move out of the low rent older apartment building in downtown Dickinson, North Dakota where I live.  No, this is not an across town move, because they have a pickup truck and a U-haul trailer, and they are very carefully trying to fit absolutely everything they own into this truck and trailer, because they are leaving Dickinson.

In the past thirty days, I have written two previous blog posts about two other couples who were moving out of the older apartment building where I live in Dickinson.  Both the first couple, and the second couple, the husband was truck driver.  Both of these two couples moved to Dickinson about six months ago.

On the radio in Dickinson, North Dakota for the past several months, there have been advertisements from local trucking companies about how they need truck drivers, they offer competitive wages, paid family health insurance, and a $3,000 to $6,000 sign-on bonus.

Why is it that truck drivers come to Dickinson for work, then they leave about six months later?  No, they didn’t make so much money that they are leaving.  I talked to them, I saw how they were living, I saw that they had very little, I sometimes saw and heard these couples arguments that continued through the parking lot and into the building, the kind of arguments that people have when money is scarce.

Also on the radio in Dickinson during the past sixty days, I have heard representatives from North Dakota Job Service talk about the great need for workers in Williston, Watford City, and Dickinson, about several hundred job vacancies in Williston.  Yet when I log onto the North Dakota Job Services website, and search for job openings in Williston, Watford City, and Dickinson, I see that there are less than forty current job openings in Williston, and less than thirty current job openings in Watford City and Dickinson.  One third of these job openings are for Registered Nurses, Travel Nurses, and Medical Doctors, more job openings in the medical professions than there are in the oil field.

What is going on?  I know exactly what is going on, and what is happening.  Business owners, property owners, property managers, and oil companies want to “keep things going”.  The business owners want customers, the property owners want their property to continue to be worth money, the property managers want tenants, and the oil companies want to have a large pool of skilled trades people so that they can keep wages low, have the threat of easily replacing workers, and being able to replace skilled trades people like they were shop rags when they get worn out.

In my previous blog post, I found a short way to put it, if you are not from this area, you are treated like a migrant worker.  No matter if you have a college degree, management experience, or a great deal of work experience, if you are not from this area you are treated like a migrant worker.

What does this mean, being treated like a “migrant worker”?  It means that you will be followed more, stopped more, and treated with more scrutiny by the local city Police.  You are a good candidate for a DUI, a good source of revenue for the city when you pay your court fines, and how the local attorneys stay in business with the $3,000 retainer fee you will pay.

If you are not from this area, you will be treated like a migrant worker in many businesses, establishments, city, county, state, and federal offices in Dickinson.  At work, you will be disliked, mistrusted, mistreated, and undermined by your local co-workers, local administrators, local managers, and local company owners.

The truth is, that there are some job openings in Dickinson, and the wage rates are still above average, because no one wants to live or work in Dickinson.  The local people are unfriendly and hostile, the real estate prices are way too high, there is not a lot to do, there are very few places to go, and the local employers and the local co-workers treat out of state workers like shit.

More Truth And Lies About Living And Working In Dickinson, North Dakota

About ten days ago, I wrote a blog post article about a poor truck driver and his wife moving out of the low rent downtown apartment building where I live in Dickinson, to return to the state where they came from.  When they moved in six months ago, back in May of 2018, they arrived with a thirty year old beat up car that they had borrowed from someone.  The only progress they made financially during the past six months was being able to buy a twenty-five year old beat up pickup truck for about $2,000.

During the more than one hour drive that I have to and from work, and while I am at work, each day I hear on FM radio stations advertisements for truck drivers wanted in Dickinson, North Dakota, where the companies are offering sign-on bonuses of $3,000 to $6,000, and family health insurance plans.

How can it be, that even though this truck driver neighbor of mine worked long hours and I hardly ever saw him, how could this be that he and his wife were so poor?  How could this be that when he lost his truck driving job in October, he was unable to get another truck driving job and had to return to the state where he came from?

This same exact thing that I saw happening ten days ago, where this truck driver and his wife who arrived here six months ago were moving out of the apartment building where I live in Dickinson, happened again two days ago.  Another couple who arrived here six months ago, where the husband drives truck, they are moving to Bismarck.

I ask the readers to please stop and think about this, every day I hear on FM radio around Dickinson, advertisements from several different trucking companies about their immediate need for experienced truck drivers, where they offer competitive wages, anywhere from a $3,000 to $6,000 sign on bonus, and family health insurance plans.  Why do poor truck drivers from out of state move here with their wives and belongings into the least expensive apartment they can find, to take a truck driving job in Dickinson, never appear to get ahead, and then leave Dickinson after six months?

These truck drivers leave Dickinson because they were lied to, and were misled.  All out of state workers who arrive in Dickinson are treated like shit, both at work, and outside of work.  If you are not from Dickinson, you are treated like a migrant worker.  You will not receive fair treatment, or good treatment, the whole time you are here.

The companies in Dickinson, the Chamber of Commerce, and North Dakota job service will continue to put people on the radio talking about the great need for workers, the shortage of workers, and that companies are desperate for workers.  Yes, they do need workers, because they treat everyone like shit, and they leave.  This is why people will not come back to Dickinson to work.

The Reality Of Living In Dickinson Versus The Lies

On this blog website, I have tried again, and again, to explain the reality of living in Dickinson, North Dakota, versus the lies.

Right now, today, there are advertisements and announcements on the radio about truck driving jobs in Dickinson, Watford City, and Williston with “paid benefits, housing provided, $3,000 sign-on bonus, and $6,000 sign-on bonus”.  Yes, there are some truck driving jobs in Dickinson, Watford City, and Williston, but it is not like what is advertised or claimed.  I want to give a recent, real life example.

In the Spring of 2018, at the older, low rent apartment building where I live in downtown Dickinson, there was a couple in their late twenties who moved into my building.  This man and woman, appeared to be kind of poor, they drove a thirty year old luxury car that was worn out, with the rear suspension sagging.  Later, it was found out, that this wasn’t even their car, it had been lent to them.

Everyone in the building remembers this couple moving in, because they made a fuss about someone being parked in “their parking space”, which caused at least a year long mutual agreement and understanding of the residents to be messed up, and a chain reaction of squabbles.

Mathematically, there are not enough parking spaces in front of the building for each apartment to have one parking space, without even considering that some apartments have two drivers and two vehicles.  It came to be understood and established, that the mothers with children, and the women who were less mobile, had their usual spot where they parked their car in front of the building, and the men, who typically drove pickup trucks and were able-bodied parked on the street.  It was a very practical arrangement, that worked very well, until this new young couple demanded “their parking space”, which then caused everyone to end up parking in someone else’s customary space.

This couple was from out of state, and the husband was a truck driver.  I never saw very much of the husband, because he was always working.  After about two months of living in this building, this couple bought a twenty-five year old Chevy pickup truck that was beat up, and they gave back the thirty year old luxury car that had been lent to them.

I remember this husband and wife fighting and squabbling some, on a regular basis, with their arguments and hostility being carried or continued into the parking lot, and hallways.  Car doors slamming, shouting, yelling, fighting between the two of them about the other one not doing what they wanted, needed, or were supposed to do.

With their beat up truck, shabby, dirty, cheap clothing, and tired appearance, the husband always seemed to be coming from the position of working hard, working long hours, and the wife not doing what she was supposed to do, or not understanding that they didn’t have money.  And the wife was disappointed and unhappy about everything, where they lived, what they had, and her not getting what she wanted.

This past week, five or six months after this couple moved into my building downtown, they are moving out.  The husband lost his truck driving job, and they are returning to the state where they came from.  All by himself, this poor, tired, worn out truck driver was carrying all the beat up old furniture from their apartment, and piling it in the back of their beat up $2,000 truck.  The wife was no where to be seen, it looks like she split, too much disappointment and humiliation for her.

This husband was hardly ever home, because he was out driving tractor trucks.  With the supposed high demand for truck drivers, high rate of pay, $3,000 to $6,000 sign on bonuses, why are people like this couple so poor?  Why was the husband let go?  Why did they have to pay for their own apartment?  Why couldn’t the husband easily go get another truck driving job with a $3,000 to $6,000 sign on bonus, and housing provided?

I have lived in Dickinson, North Dakota for a little over six years now.  What business owners, business organizations, and politicians claim, is a bunch of bullshit, hype, and propaganda which benefits them:  To keep people coming here to rent apartments, rent homes, buy homes, keep real estate prices up, keep businesses going, to have an overabundance of labor, in order to keep labor pay rates low.

If you are from out of state and you come here, you may be able to get a job, but you will not be treated very well because you are not from here, you will be undermined by your local co-workers, not valued by your local company owner, used like migrant laborers, and let go.  You may be able to pay your bills while you are here, but you will not get ahead financially unless you live almost like a homeless person or Mexican migrant worker to try to save some money.

Explanation Of A $3,500 Weekly Pay Check

I work at an industrial site, far outside of Dickinson, North Dakota.  The rules on this site, are what you would find at a mining operation or a refinery:  Heavy equipment has the right-of-way;  hard hat, safety vest, eye protection, safety toe shoes are required at all times; no visitors or non-employees are allowed on the site at any time.

There are many restrictions, rules, and procedures on this site that the workers here take for granted, but most people would be unaware of, such as absolutely no photography or video recording on site, 10 mph speed limit on site, and all vehicles must come to a complete stop and wait when a crane is lifting something, even if it is 100 feet away from the roadway.  All of this is just one of the reasons why visitors or non-employees are not allowed on site, they would be unaware of all these restrictions and rules, or perhaps they would be non-compliant with some of these restrictions, rules, and procedures.

This Friday, one of the equipment operators on this site asked me for a favor, would I take his pay check, and hold it for someone who was going to pick it up at the site entrance later today?  This equipment operator works at the far back of the site, and I work at the front of the site near the entrance.

This equipment operator gave me his pay check, and he described to me the vehicle that the guy would be driving that was coming to pick up this check, he did not tell me this person’s name, he just gave me a vehicle description.  I was trying to get better, more detailed clarification of what this vehicle was or who this person was, but the equipment operator did not give me much more details, as if he didn’t care that much.

Within about ten minutes, a truck matching the make, model, color, and special ZR71 edition, fitting the equipment operator’s description, arrived at the site entrance.  Just one thing didn’t match his description, this truck didn’t have a light or light bar on top.  I talked to the driver, and he said that he came to the site, looking for a job.

I was irritated and annoyed that I almost gave this equipment operator’s pay check to the wrong person, because all he gave me was a description of the vehicle, and within ten minutes a vehicle matching his description arrived at the site entrance.  I looked at this paycheck to see how the equipment operator had endorsed it, to see if just anyone could cash it, if I gave it to the wrong person.  The back of this check was endorsed, “Pay to the order of xxxxxx “, and I could not decipher the person’s name.  At least this check wasn’t merely endorsed with a signature only, in which case the wrong person might be able to cash or deposit this check.

The amount of this check was $2,500, which irritated and annoyed me further, this was too large an amount to be so nonchalant and careless with it.  The employee pay stub was still attached to this check, showing that this pay check was for the one week pay period 9/23 to 9/30, the rate of pay, the amount of hours worked, and the gross pay before any taxes were taken out was $3,500.

I thought to myself, no wonder this equipment operator acted like he could not care less about this pay check, he gets paid $3,500 per week.  This $2,500 check was no big deal to him, he would get another one for the same amount or more next Friday.

I thought about this some more, $3,500 per week, equals $14,000 per month.  $3,500 per week, times 50 weeks, equals $175,000 per year.  That is a lot of money.  That is much more money than teachers, police officers, nurses, college professors, engineers, CPAs, and the majority of attorneys get paid.  This is even more money than many family practice medical doctors get paid.

I have written in previous blog posts, that despite what newspapers and television news stations report, I have only ever met about four people who made over $100,000 per year working in the oil field in North Dakota.  This equipment operator, isn’t really working in the oil field, this is an industrial site, not the oil field.  At another industrial site that I worked at in North Dakota in 2015, a friend of mine made this same hourly pay as this equipment operator.

The friend of mine that worked at the same industrial site as me in North Dakota in 2015, and this equipment operator at the industrial site where I work now, though their weekly pay checks can be as high as $4,000 per week, and they can make as much as $16,000 per month, they usually do not make over $100,000 per year, due to project completion, winter work shut down, and being laid off from work.

Something that I think about, is why do people who graduate near the top of their class in high school, go to college for four to six years like CPAs, engineers, and attorneys, or people who do things that we are supposed to value in society like teachers, nurses, or police officers, why do they get paid less than half of what this equipment operator gets paid?  Part of the answer, is that in North Dakota, where the majority of people are not very educated or work in a profession, they do not value education or professional occupations.

Doing The Right Thing In North Dakota Can Cost You Your Job

In North Dakota, doing the right thing can cost you your job.  I have seen it happen to other people, and it has happened to me too.  For instance, you can read my previous blog posts about “The Disputed Termination Of David Armendariz In Dickinson, North Dakota”.

Some of my blog posts are too long, so I want to try to get right to the point about something that happened to me this week, where I almost lost my job.

For the past year, I have worked at a site that is approximately 100 acres in size.  This week, an outside independent contractor was hired to perform some work at this site.  This contractor had four, one-ton four-wheel-drive trucks on this site.  On the second day of their work, one of these trucks got stuck in a low lying wet area.

This contractor drove up to me, to ask me if I had a tow strap, they could not find any of theirs on any of their trucks.  I had a new 30′ tow strap in my personal vehicle, and also a 30′ heavy duty rope.  I said that I would drive down behind them in my vehicle.  I already had an idea of where they got stuck.

I wanted to have the owner of this contracting company, pull his stuck work truck out from behind, because this looked like the best way.  The contracting company owner wanted to try to pull his stuck truck out from the front, so that is how I hooked the tow strap up.

The contracting company owner driving his one-ton four-wheel-drive dual rear wheel diesel Dodge truck could not pull this other one-ton four-wheel-drive truck out from the front.  I said let’s try it from the back, and if this doesn’t work, I will get the site owners to pull this truck out with their front end loader.

Luckily, this truck came out of the mud, when it was pulled from the back, but it just barely came out.  I did not want to try to get the site owners to start up their loader and bring it down, because they look at this as someone being an idiot and messing up.

In general, I was told by my employer, to always stay away from the site owners, this is how my predecessor lost his job.  However, the site owners had pulled one of my co-workers out with their front end loader last year.

When I got back to my work area after helping the independent outside contractor to get their work truck unstuck at about 3:30 p.m., I realized that the site owners were all gone, there was no one else around, there was only me.  If the independent contractor had not been able to pull their truck out using their own one-ton four-wheel-drive dually Dodge diesel truck, the only thing that would have gotten that truck out, was the front end loader.

I probably would have gotten on the loader, carefully driven it down there, pulled the truck out easily, and taken the loader back to where it was parked.  I would not have thought too much about it, I suppose, because there was nothing else to do about the situation, in my opinion.

I have worked as a laborer, foreman, superintendent, project manager, inspector, engineer, and contractor.  In my work experience, you do what you can when another contractor is in a bind, because you would hope and expect another contractor to do the same thing for you.  Also, in my work experience, it is expected by the site owner, that there is to be cooperation among contractors, you do not withhold help when it is needed.

In my work experience, I have operated a loader, backhoe, dozer, excavator, crane, lull, bucket truck, trencher, plow, and directional drill rig, without ever having an accident or damaging anything.  Would I have gotten fired for using the site owner’s front end loader to pull another contractor’s truck out?

The following day, I asked my co-worker who has been working at this site for four years, and he said, yes, the site owner would have demanded that the company that I work for, fire me immediately for using their front end loader.

I had very little to do with the work that this independent outside contractor was performing, I just happened to be the only other personnel on site when they got stuck.  It did not benefit me to help this contractor, it only benefited the site owners to help get this other work completed.

I felt bad that I came close to losing my job, by helping someone else which did not benefit me in any way.  But I would have lost my job, and this type of thing is very typical in North Dakota, completely different from anywhere else that I have worked.

Why Dickinson, North Dakota Is So Quiet Tonight

When I got home to my apartment in downtown Dickinson, North Dakota at 6:30 p.m., on this Monday, June 18, everything was very quiet.  I opened all of the windows in my apartment, turned on my computer, checked my e-mails, looked at my Worpress blog, looked at Facebook, read the Dickinson Press Newspaper online, and everything continued to be quiet in my apartment building, the parking lot, and this downtown residential area.

I fell asleep in my lazy boy recliner chair from 9:30 p.m. to 11:30 p.m., and I am just now waking up.  This residential area is so quiet right now, that I can hear that there is not a single car driving on the main downtown street through Dickinson, Villard Street.  Either directly on four-lane Villard Street, or one block north of Villard Street, there are twelve bars and restaurants, and about eight gas station convenience stores.

I am listening and trying to time it, and I am not hearing even one vehicle per five minutes on Villard Street.  I have heard one car in the past fifteen minutes.  Can you imagine how quiet that is, one car in fifteen minutes on the main street through downtown, at 11:30 p.m. on a Monday night?

I know why Dickinson is this quiet, it is a combination of about four different things.  I read a newspaper article about a month ago, that said the population of North Dakota decreased from 2017 to 2018, there was a net out-migration of about 500 people.  The total population of North Dakota is only about 750,000 people.

Despite what the business owners, real estate agents, real estate developers, chambers of commerce, business associations, elected representatives, and spokespeople say, the economy in western North Dakota has been slowing down since 2015, and it continues to do so.

In the Spring of 2018, there were newspaper articles and advertisements, radio announcements and advertisements, television reports and advertisements, trade journal articles and advertisements, telling people about the great need for workers in western North Dakota.  The truth is, that all of these reports and advertisements about the need for workers in western North Dakota, did not match the reality of the actual number of job openings posted on North Dakota Job Services, the Dickinson Press newspaper, Monster.com, Careerbuilder.com, Indeed.com, LinkedIn.com, etcetera.

Yes, there was a need every week for a few CDL licensed drivers, experienced heavy equipment mechanics, electricians, experienced hydraulic fracturing operators, and laborers, but just a few, not a huge amount.  Many of these job openings did not represent company growth or an expansion in business operations, but were job vacancies created by workers who quit and left North Dakota.

The truth is, that workers who are already living here or who come here, who can prove that they have experience welding, fabricating, operating heavy equipment, operating fracturing equipment, working on a drill rig, with a CDL license, or are a certified mechanic, they can probably find a job if they are in good health and have a clean driving record.  But there is not a huge demand for workers.

I know experienced oil field workers living here in western North Dakota who have had difficulty in finding a job, and the jobs that they eventually accept are lower pay, sometimes much lower, than what they used to get paid.  I know people over 50 years of age who have work experience in the oil field and in construction, who have a lot of difficulty in finding a job in western North Dakota.

In the past several years, I have seen many people with some college education, business experience, technical experience, construction experience, and oil field experience, decide to leave North Dakota, because of the combination of not very high pay, poor working conditions, cold weather, and overall unpleasant environment here.  The people who have remained here in Dickinson after the oil boom ended in 2015, are mostly blue-collar trades people.

As I previously stated up above, there was an attempt this Spring by business owners, real estate agents, real estate developers, chambers of commerce, and government spokespeople, to entice and lure people here to North Dakota using announcements, news stories, and advertisements.  Most of the people who responded to this and came to western North Dakota, were no-skilled, low-skilled, inexperienced, poor, uneducated, illegal drug users from cities in Washington State and California.

Initially, in this Spring of 2018 in downtown Dickinson, it was noisy and chaotic.  The poor white-trash and poor blacks who recently arrived from the inner-cities of Washington State and California ran around and got into everything like insects that had recently hatched.  In expectation of getting a high paying oil field job, these no-skilled, low-skilled uneducated inner-city people rented apartments, and behaved like they did where they came from.

These new arrivals from the inner-cities continued to use illegal drugs, sell illegal drugs, get high, get drunk, and drive recklessly around Dickinson.  Little by little, bit by bit, the Dickinson Police arrested these new arrivals for possession of drugs, possession of drug paraphernalia, reckless driving, and DUI.

Once these no-skilled, low-skilled, uneducated inner-city people with criminal records and bad driving records found that they were unable to get a job working in the oil field, they began doing what they did in the inner-cities where they came from, sell drugs, steal, commit burglaries, and robberies.

Little by little, bit by bit, these inner-city people who arrived in Dickinson, most of them have either been stopped by the Dickinson Police multiple times, or they have been arrested.  They are in jail awaiting trial, have posted bail and have fled the state, have calmed down because they don’t want to get stopped by the Police anymore, or they have moved away because of the Police and they can’t get a job.

What is very funny to me, is at the apartment building where I live in downtown Dickinson tonight, it is so quiet, such a contrast to the months of April, May, and the beginning of June.  There is no one driving recklessly through the residential streets, there is no vehicle in the apartment building parking lot playing ghetto music, there is no one stopping by the apartment building to buy illegal drugs, there are no drug addicts wandering through the parking lot or the hallways.

The people all throughout this downtown neighborhood tonight, they have got their jobs to go to in the morning, they were all in for the night by 7:00 p.m., they had dinner, watched television, and went to bed.  The people from Washington State and California, are mostly back where they came from, or locked in their jail cell.