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July 31, 2010

Still unemployed? Or working but with long hours, reduced pay, benefits? Is this our new American workforce reality?

About a month ago, my husband got a job after being out of work for three months. Three months.

That's not bad in this economy, is it?

Just the other day, I ran into neighbor and Walnut Creek Intermediate mom and she said her husband had gone through nine months of unemployment. Her story echoes in others I've heard countless times over the past two years, from people in the community. The husband of my son's fifth grade teacher dealt with a similar long stint of unemployment. Another WCI mom--her husband, like her, a dual Swiss-American citizen--has relocated back to Switzerland because he simply could not find work in his field, as an architect. This woman and her kids will remain in Walnut Creek, because the kids are settled in the schools. So, the new economic reality might be causing some families to separate.

My husband's new job pays about half what he earned before, but then, he's no longer a manager, which has lessened his stress levels considerably. He also has a manageable work day. Eight hours. Before he was on the sixty- to eighty-hour work week. He'd stay until 10 p.m. or go in on the weekends. That kind of pace was not good for him, with his mental illness. It's not really good for anyone for any length of time.

My husband, is, shall we say, a special case.

What I'm wondering is others of you who have managed to come back from unemployment--and whether your new job is an improvement in terms of salary, challenges, work conditions.

Or, if you had to settle, and you feel like you just should be grateful to have a job, and whether you are working harder than before, but with fewer rewards?

I'm also starting to wonder if some employers are taking advantage of workers' gratitude. You know, cutting back on, say, what the company contributes to health care. Forcing workers to take unpaid furlough days. Asking them to be long-time contractors, with absolutely no job security, rather than full-time workers.

In the dark days of late 2008 and early 2009, I was all very rah-rah about employees and employers pulling together in these tough times, and how we workers should accept pay and benefit cuts, if it prevents layoffs, and if it keeps the company afloat. We were all in this together right?

And then I started seeing things. An owner of a small company, while talking in company meetings about how these are the toughest times he's ever seen, and bemoaning whatever millions he lost in investments and real estate, was still living the good life: skiing all winter in some chic winter ski destination.

I've heard about people in other jobs where they now work for less but with new, extra responsibilities, and everyone at the company is so maxed out that they don't have time to properly train colleagues in these new tasks. These tasks don't necessarily involve a whole new skill set, but just guidance in new procedures necessary to get the job done in an efficient way. Workers are trying to complete tasks without a lot of guidance, but messing things up along the way and having to stop and restart. It sounds like a lot of time is being wasted, while a lot of workers' stress and frustration is growing.

More and more, I'm developing a rather dark view about the workforce in this new economic reality: that it's made up of people who are hanging on to what jobs are left, and working a lot more, for a lot less in terms of pay, benefits and security, and they are taking on tasks--due to downsizing-- for which they are not being adequately prepared. More and more, I'm seeing workers spend a lot less time at home with their families--or moving far away from their families to earn a living.

More and more, I'm getting the sense that there are executives and CEOs, high up in their stratosphere of privilege, who are out of touch with what their employees are dealing with, day to day, on the ground.

I'm not sure when and if it will get better any time soon. The Associated Press is reporting today that "Many economists say the economy is growing even more slowly now. ... economic momentum is slowing ... much of the expansion was empowered by the governmenet's "862 billion stimulus package ... Now those forces are fading ... Businesses have not been adding enough jobs to keep up with population growth, and unemployment is stuk near 10 percent ... "

Oh, and consumer spending is rising at an anemic rate...

Happy Saturday.

20 comments:

Cheryl said...

My husband recently landed a part time job with regular hours after 7 months of being unemployed. It's 30 hours a week making 1/4 less than what he was making at his previous job, but we're just so grateful that he found this job that we're not going to complain. He's still looking for full time work, but at least this removes some of the stress of running out of unemployment benefits from the picture.

Now the stress I'm dealing with is how the heck am I going to pay for all this back to school stuff. Not so much the supplies, but all of the fees, requested donations and other money they ask for at the beginning of the school year.

Anonymous said...

the working class has nothing in common with the capitalist class.

Beau Hunk said...

Answer this please, SM.

Should the Bush tax cuts be allowed to expire or should they be extended?

21stCenturyMom said...

I was unemployed for over a year more than once. I am now gainfully employed but my salary is pre-2000 levels. Not half, though - more like 75%. The benefits are no where near what I used to have, either.

I'm pretty grateful to have a job, though.

EdiBirsan said...

For those stuck in the new economy without health care insurance there is the RotoCare FREE health clinic on Thursday's in Concord for people WITHOUT health care.

Call Thursdays between 1=>3PM for an appointment THAT night 6->9PM. 925 429-6409 then go to the clinic set up at Cambridge Elementary Multi Use room and the mobile outside. 1135 Lacy Lane,(off of Monument) Concord.
Routine and Urgent Health Care. FREE

There are two doctors, two nurses, a pharmacy (no narcotics, or refrigeration meds). They can also arrange for follow ups, lab work etc.

Brought to you by the Rotary Clubs of the Concord Area and East Bay in conjunction with donations from John Muir Med and others in the community.

(I now return you to your regularly scheduled Thread of woes).

Anonymous said...

My husband's company never replaced the two engineers he used to work with. So yes, he's been doing the doing the job of three for two years now. But he has a job so we are grateful. My brother in law finally found a job after a year with a much lower salary. My girlfriend still hasn't found a job and is now on welfare and living with friends.

Anonymous said...

My husband and I are both unemployed picking up freelance work here and there at a lot less than we used to earn. No health insurance. No sick days.
This is what comes of letting the uber rich get away with moving all of our jobs to India so they can max their profits by paying way lower wages.
Thank you, CIS, for this blog post. It is something that is happening to a lot of us and no one else is talking about.

Anonymous said...

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Hi all - just a reminder of the rally tomorrow! Come on out - bring a friend -and show your support! You can visit our website at www.justice4johannes.com

Date: Monday, August 2, 2010
Time: 2:00pm - 6:00pm
Address: San Jose City Hall
200 East Santa Clara Street
San Jose, CA 95113

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AKA Soccer Mom said...

I understand gratitude for being employed--when others are not. And my husband felt gratitude when he got a job after three months of unemployment--instead of six, nine or 12 months like others.

I'm wondering though if companies are starting to take advantage of this gratitude. I think they are. Maybe I'm being cynical.

Dana estates said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
J at www.jellyjules.com said...

My husband and I were both laid off, and both hired back after 5 and 8 months of unemployment. To say that being unemployed that long, both of us (though thankfully not at the same time) affected our savings and our income is an understatement. My husband was hired back in a different position, for slightly less than he made before. I was hired back in the same position for slightly more than I made before, but I had only had 1 raise in 8 years. My cousin has been out of work for over a year, and as a single mom who never made much to begin with, has been living on the charity of her local church. That's our sob story.

Your question, however, was are employers taking advantage. I'm cynical enough to say I'm sure that many are. But when I look around at my employer, and my husband's (both very small companies), I see that they are both barely staying afloat, and there are no millionaires at either place. Well, there are two (the owners) at my husband's place of employment, but they aren't taking any salary, and haven't for a few years now. That's the way the company works. If profits go beneath a certain level, the millionaire owners live off their millions, and don't take home any pay. Hard to be too angry at that.

Radar said...

Loyalty to a company is long gone. An employer is not loyal to you why should I be loyal to a company?

AKA Soccer Mom said...

Radar,
I so agree.

And the idea that we shouldn't hold it against an employer who may not be bringing in the big profits --but who can still live off his millions--

I've heard about employers who do try to say they do care or talk about how they "love" their employees, or how we're all one big family.

My husband cited unemployment figures to me. I've heard them. And I hear that all companies are downsizing. Yes, we can be grateful--to an extent.

I still wonder if companies and CEOs are taking advantage of the situation now. Or the gap is widening?

Golly, people have accused me of being a leftist, socialist... but not really, in a lot of ways, not until recently.

Anonymous said...

I took early retirement. Agencies are often looking for ways to fire someone so they can't collect unemployment. I saw that writing on the wall.

I agree with Radar. My dad was in the army for over 20 years. He was a Teamster and worked for as a driver/guard for another 20+ years. The union and the company sometimes had issues, but it wasn't like the company was always trying to gut the employees' benefits. The employees put in a full-day's work and got a full-day's pay. The company expected employees to work there for extended periods (if not till retirement), and the employees had the same expectations.

Those days are long gone.

Anonymous said...

I want to say how sorry I am for those who are unemployed. I took a cut in my retirement to retire early.

If I could make a suggestion, the long-term unemployed might want to look into other careers. I'm not trying to be rude but I'm practical. Some might even qualify for financial assistance.

Here's a link to some information on jobs.

http://www.labormarketinfo.edd.ca.gov/?pageid=146

Anonymous said...

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Anonymous said...

SM,

Can you delete spam posts like the one at 9:39? Even if people agree with the poster, it has nothing to do with long-term unemployment and the other topics on this thread.

Anonymous said...

SM,

Can you delete spam posts like the one at 9:39? Even if people agree with the poster, it has nothing to do with long-term unemployment and the other topics on this thread.

johnsredgloves said...

I was laid off in April after having worked for 6 years at the same company. I am still looking for work. I've had several interviews, but so far no luck in landing a new job. I have another interview lined up for Thursday. The competition is brutal!

Anonymous said...

Anon 11:04 AM

Calm down for goodness sake. Last I looked, it wasn't questionable or obscene.