Hey! Randy

In Cold Water

Posted by heyrandy on September 1, 2009

We are now in a depression. We entered the depression on July 30, 2009 at 3:30:01 PM Eastern time. I know this is the case because that is the moment when my job ended. I am a statistic. I have joined the other 9% (the official government number. Others estimate the real number to be 16-20%. Our government would not lie, of course.).

The story began on February 17, 2009. That is the day when a bunch of vice-presidents of the company left their corporate offices in Danbury, Connecticut to come to our plant and let us know that our operations would cease by September 30, 2009. That was the first lie.

We were all gathered in the big conference room for the announcement. The Vice-president for operations made the announcement. All the other vice-presidents stood against the walls and watched. The company president remained in Danbury. He made his lieutenants bear the news. What is the point of having subordinates if you don’t abuse them? Besides, it’s a lot safer there. Not that it is danger free, he might get a paper cut.

We were told at the meeting that some of us would be getting job offers for positions in Danbury. The plan was that manufacturing would be transferred there. About 30 people got offers, many being people in my group. I did not get a job offer. I was miffed but only for ego reasons. I knew I would not move there because an engineer had the previous year accepted a transfer to Danbury. He said that he and his wife looked a long time for a house they could afford. They finally found an “OK house in an OK neighborhood” for only $200,000. Ain’t no way I could afford that on my pay.

The job offers did not include any more money. One engineer and his wife went to Danbury to see if the move was feasible for them. The real estate agent showed them a house with a leaky roof, a flooded basement, mold in the attic and basement, and a rusted out oil tank buried in the backyard. All for only $250,000.

No one was moving there. The corporate management was stunned. This is what happens when you have no concept of reality.

The Danbury hallucination team made some informal offers of a 10% pay increase to a few people to see if there was any interest. There was laughter.

During this time the management did something that stunned everyone: they sent three hourly workers home at full weekly pay. I called it leaving on the Gravy Train. The name stuck. Everyone began calling “the Gravy Train.” It upset everyone that did not get on board. All the three guys had to do was not get a full time job and weekly fill out and send in a paper stating that they were not working anywhere full time. They could get a part time job. The two guys from my group came out of the meeting smiling. One of them said that he asked the personnel manager if she wanted him to fill out all the papers right there. Any morale  still in the building left with the three guys.

Shortly after the Gravy Train left the station we were reduced to four day weeks. The only good news about that is that the New York State Department has some program that will pay one day of unemployment benefits to employees that are on reduced hours. We qualified.

Along came the annual inventory. Two of the Gravy Train riders were recalled for inventory counting. Inventory is not loved, but this year was special: no one cared either.

The shop finished the few projects we had on the floor. One was a machine we were sending to the National Plastics Exhibition. This is a major trade show. It comes only one every three years. We sent all the stuff we had built for the show of 2006. No new products for this show. Everything was a duplicate of last time.

Since production could not be moved to Connecticut, who was going to build the machines? The local management surveyed several local machine building companies and chose one. We sent a load of parts over to the place. Several of us went there to teach them how to build our machines. While there, we all put in applications for jobs. A month later this company had a layoff. So much for that.

The machine building company built the second machine without much help from us. They did a nice job. They did not need us.

One of my group’s guys got a ticket to the Gravy Train. He was told that he would be leaving on the Train soon. He was not to do any more production work. He spent most of his time playing games on the shop floor computers. This stopped when all the floor computers were removed as part of the shutdown. His mood deteriorated as the time passed without any sign of the Train. The Train never came; he left the same day I did. I asked him if I could have his parking space.

The new plan was to convert the facility into a technical applications center. About 30 people were given job offers to stay. Most accepted. I was not given an offer. No one is betting that the place will be open there in two years.

We began the process of condensing the shop. We began throwing out lots of stuff. Shop machinery was packed up and sent to Mexico. Inventory was to be reduced, so a lot of otherwise good material was thrown out. We were warned not to take any of it. There is some kind of tax law that says to write off the goods the material has to be destroyed. The company was afraid that some things might turn up for sale on Ebay or used on someone’s boat.

We were all given our official final day. I marked my calendar with a big “Yes!”. I thought about marking the next day with a big “No!”, but I didn’t.

People began leaving as their final day came. It was sad. Some beat the day by finding a new job. I did not.

The accounts payable clerk had a big picture of the Titanic nose down in the water. She put everyone’s name on a push pins and put the pins on the picture showing everyone’s individual status. People with new jobs are in the life boat; those without jobs are in the water; the rest of the people are still on the deck of the ship.

I have been registering with employment agencies, but so far nothing definite. I did get a possible maybe from one place. All the places that do the kind of work I have been doing have had layoffs. I think that the odds of finding something in my line of work is about 5%. It is dry out there, even if you are in the water.

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