With regard to the OP, I read it as a report on feeling completely demoralized and more than a little betrayed and wondering how to get out of his trap (something better than nothing, but not the career he had worked and hoped for). Whiney? Yeah. Also pretty understandable.
I feel incredibly fortunate to have a job and that not all of my 7 years and $20k investment in hawsepiping was wasted. Some of it – DP Basic and Advanced for instance – are irrecoverable sunk costs, but so it goes. You don’t win every hand.
My experience with a union – my first in almost 30 years of employment – has been okay. Do I wish they did a little more for us and were more responsive? Sure. Am I happy that my pay increases every year, I have a contract that protects many of my rights and there is someone who ‘may’ go to bat for me if I get crosswise with management? Yep.
I make less towing than I made in the oilfield (but almost certainly not less than I would make offshore now) but I have a short even-time schedule and spend a lot more time with the family and living my life. I work with a varied cast of characters – local boys, Yankees and even a few coonasses – hawsepioers and academy grads, and generally it’s pleasant and low drama. Everyone knows what everyone else, even the owner’s kid, is making and how to make more (work over or get promoted – and the process for doing that also is the same for everyone).
And while I make less in my day rate than I did on an OSV, per my contract the company pays 100 percent of premiums to pretty decent, low-deductible health insurance for the entire family and contributes to a defined benefit pension plan that will pay me 40 percent off my annual gross at 20 years and 2 percent more per year after that.
Liike I said, the union is okay. The owners like it too, because it provides them with operating stability and predictibility and they essentially outsource most of their benefits administration.
What happened to turn workers in the South against unions? Well, we (or our parents) watched the American auto industry crumble in the 70s and 80s in the face of foreign competition, in part because the UAW went too far and stifled the domestic manufacturer’s ability to compete.
And I don’t think it’s too much of a stretch to observe that there may be some deep cultural bias against organized labor dating to the last really big disruption in the labor force down here. We ended up fighting a war over it.
Finally (!)), with all respect to Anchorman (who almost always presents well-researched and cogent arguments regarding the oil industry), I have to agree with the guys who say the fundamentals have changed and this “downturn” is not part of the usual boom/bust cycle. Living in Texas and being the son of a guy who was in the oil bidness my entire childhood and most of my adult life, I can recall vividly the cycles since at least the early 1970s.
Here is what has changed: We keep finding more oil, not less (is “peak oil” even a thing anymore?); the technology to efficiently recover hydrocarbons (and I include natural gas here, because that is huge for energy production, heating, etc.) continues to get better and cheaper; recovery technologies in deepwater likewise keep getting more efficient (GoM production rates continue to grow even as rig counts fall and legacy platforms are removed and boats remain stacked); China has pretty much ended it’s big transformation to an industrialized economy (and some other developing nation’s may skip that phase altogether); and the 800-lb gorilla, renewable energy technologies are maturing rapidly and becoming cost-competitive with even today’s cheap oil and gas.
There will, for a long time to come, be a need for boats and mariners in the Gulf, but I think we have seen the last big boom.
Population growth, the failure of the Saudi regime or a world war could all mitigate those trends, but I think the trends are there to see.
Given all that, I’m really happy to be doing a job I enjoy (I’m 48 years old and wear SHORTS to work, FFS), making more money than your average teacher or engineer (really, I just looked it up) and not worrying whether my job will be here next year or the year after.
And I guess this is my final word to the OP: Sometimes you have to know when you have enough, even if it would be kinda “nice” to have more.