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Aaron Baddidin, a second-generation U.S. citizen, in direct contrast to his siblings, is doing his best to embrace the societal norms of the country his grandparents adopted as their own so many years ago. That fact sometimes outrages his closely-knit extended family on both sides of the ocean. Aaron does everything expected of a good citizen. He’s been a weekend warrior in the Army National Guard since age 18; he felt it was the right thing to do. He lives with his wife and 2.5 children in the suburbs behind a white picket fence. He coaches Little League baseball and plays low-handicap golf. He’s an avid fisherman and hunter who hangs out at the local watering hole with his buddies after work on payday.
Armed with only a high school education, Aaron enrolls in at least one class each term at the local community college to explore directions he might take his career in search of a better job and higher income. But, at age 27, he still hasn’t collected enough credits in any single discipline to qualify for a degree. Not to worry. It’s the land of opportunity, don’t you know. And Aaron found a dandy one at Acme.
He accepted a maintenance technician job at Acme three years ago. It didn’t require a formal degree for Aaron to realize that having a knack for computers and sophisticated software can be a perfectly valid route to the Great American Dream. He’s fascinated by the high-tech diagnostic gizmos that produce the measurable, sometimes significant, monetary gains predictive maintenance promises -- and he especially likes that he doesn’t have to pay for the expensive toys he gets to use each day.
Life was good until Aaron’s Guard unit was called to active duty in Iraq. That news generated more than a bit of personal angst, and it raised certain intergenerational familial conflicts. He knew that the duties he’d be expected to perform overseas were inconsistent with his personal credo regarding the dignity of human life, especially in a location so close to his grandfather’s homeland.
Two weeks before he was to leave, Aaron gave Eddie Corrant, Acme’s maintenance manager, two-week notice about this involuntary call-up that would require him to be gone for an 18-month tour of duty with his unit. Aaron assured Eddie that he’d be back, God willing, after the U.S. military no longer had need of his services.
To fill the techno-gap his departure caused in the maintenance department, Acme engaged the services of an independent predictive maintenance consultant, a downsized engineer from somewhere out East, who now ran a one-man organization. It didn’t hurt that this engineer was also the plant manager’s brother-in-law.
Aaron was fortunate during his sojourn in the Middle East, where he deployed high-tech weaponry, smart bombs and sundry smaller munitions. His Guard unit returned from the Middle East after only 15 months. Several of his comrades in arms were severely incapacitated. A few never would be coming home. Aaron suffered only a leg wound that left him with a pronounced limp.
After a week getting reacquainted with his family and community, he returned to Acme, triumphantly waving his honorable discharge papers, only to discover that his key card no longer worked. He called security, and a guard arrived at once -- not to let him in, but to escort him to the HR department. The reason, the guard explained, was that after the bomb threat last winter, employee key cards now expire automatically if they haven’t been used for two consecutive days. Aaron would need a new one. Elsa Norcassel, the HR director, met them in the HR lobby and directed Aaron to a small conference room.
After preliminary chit-chat about his recent exploits, Elsa launched into an obviously canned explanation of the measures the plant had adopted to deter industrial terrorism in response to the bomb threat. The biggest surprise was that Aaron would need to reapply for his old job. Elsa explained that this policy applies to anyone who takes an extended leave of absence -- and this one lasted more than a year. Aaron was shocked and argued that the rule made no sense, citing the training he received on ultra-high-tech electronics during his stint with the military. That training, he insisted, only enhanced his qualifications and provides Acme’s maintenance department with more of the unique skills it needs to be competitive in the future.
When asked about other secret hurdles he might have to leap to get his old job back, Elsa told Aaron about the 90-day probationary period and the waiting period for getting reenrolled in the 401(k) plan. She also mentioned the waiting period for health coverage, and noted that coverage might even be denied because the leg wound probably constitutes a preexisting condition.
Aaron realized, in more ways than one, that he wasn’t going to be waltzing back into his old job. He mumbled something about hoping his service will bridge. Elsa merely shrugged and handed him a pen and a job application. He filled out the paperwork and went home.
When he hadn’t heard from Elsa in more than two weeks, Aaron limped into the old watering hole on the next payday to see what was hanging on the Acme grapevine. There, he learned he probably wouldn’t be getting rehired. His friends reported various rumors. Aaron knows about guns and could be a potential danger to others. Aaron knows how to construct bombs and it’s way too risky to have him around. Aaron won’t be able to unseat the old guy who replaced him. Aaron’s bum leg will limit his ability to climb around equipment in search of incipient mechanical failures. The list went on.
The next day, Aaron paid a visit one of his good golf buddies, the premier labor attorney in these parts, to see what could be done about this indignity and injustice.
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