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…