America has long been thought of as a melting pot of cultures, and that reputation is truer today than ever before. Ever-advancing communication and travel technology makes the world a little bit smaller every day. Because of this, cultural exchange plays out on stages large and small all the time. This increasing diversity has the power to enrich our lives and the way that we do business, but it does not come without its own set of challenges.
First generation U.S. citizen Frank Ramirez has been with Bluff Manufacturing for nearly 15 years, working his way up in that time from welder to Plant Foreman. Fifteen years with the company and experience in a multitude of areas within it has given him a good sense of what life on the plant floor and Bluff Manufacturing is all about. Ramirez describes the Bluff plant as “different from any other shop,” saying that the workers on the floor are a tight knit group of buddies, which makes for a good work environment. “You’re important here,” reiterates Ramirez, “you’re not a number.” Frank describes the plant’s atmosphere of inclusion as making for a “family environment,” a description that is particularly true in his case, as his dad is a welder with Bluff. Frank started welding right out of high school, and it was his father who showed him the ropes and taught him the most about welding. Since then, Frank and his father have worked together.
It is this inclusive and supportive environment that allows Bluff’s plant workers to clear any hurdles that language and cultural differences may present. As the borders between cultures in America shrink and dissolve, it is to be expected that not every individual in every workplace will speak the same language – this is where Frank comes in. The plant’s non-English speakers are generally a little quieter and may have a slightly rougher time participating in some aspects of plant life. Frank acts as a good tool for Bluff, translating when needed and working to make everyone feel comfortable on the plant floor. Ramirez says that another central function he serves is to remind everyone of the equality within Bluff. There’s no discrimination in advancement opportunities, and Frank is an important example of this: “From the first day I started working here, I said I was going to reach shop foreman…. That’s why I’m so happy, I reached my goal. A lot of Spanish speaking people are happy here because of that.” Frank says proudly that “We’re fair to everyone. If you apply yourself, we help you reach your goals. A lot of people who are in the office now started on the floor.” This sort of internal advancement ensures that those who progress to management positions have an organic sense of what the company’s all about and what it needs to progress.
While Frank is happy to talk about the diversity in culture and experience within Bluff’s workforce, he makes it very clear that the most important thing about these differences is that they’re just not a big deal. “It isn’t a factor here, the way it might be in other shops. The biggest thing is that Hispanic people see they don’t have any barriers, that they can progress.” After all, America is the Land of Opportunity, and it’s nice to see that in Bluff’s plant, it’s living up to its reputation.