Economy 1, Family 0

Grrr.  There are actually a handful of blog topics that I have on the burner right now that I really, really want to write about, but for now they all have to wait.  The economy has finally smacked my family one, so I’m gonna go on a minor bitchfest for a minute.  Y’all pardon me.

After a few months of more or less testing the axe’s sharpness in front of his face while snickering maniacally, my younger brother’s company finally laid him off yesterday.  I think at this point he almost took it as a relief.

My brother and I aren’t close.  Actually, I spent about 15-16 years more or less hating his guts, but once I moved out to go to college and he got through adolescence, we’ve been pretty good with each other.  We don’t call or write or anything like that; we mostly know about each other via my regular phone calls to my folks.  That’s how I’ve been following ye saga of ye laying-off, in fact.

But regardless of how close we are or aren’t, and regardless of our past enmity, my brother is a good man.  And he’s definitely an employer’s dream.  He got his first “real” job a year younger than I did mine, and while he was a bit of a partier when it came to school (even though he graduated college with no real trouble), when it comes to a paycheck he’s never done anything but work his butt off.

His current employer hired him not long out of college (he tried working at a bank and hated it – long story) and he’s done nothing but go above and beyond the call of duty (and sometimes reason) for ’em.  They asked him to sign a no-compete contract – he signed.  They gave him a traveling-sales territory that includes most of the state of North Carolina – no problem.  They cut his mileage allowance to about two-thirds what his actual mileage was – he dealt.  They kept laying off others and expanding his territory – he made it work.  They laid off half their workforce, including all his friends and the guys who trained him.  He still stuck it out.  Even when a few months back they started raising the red flag of “oops, you guys aren’t getting paid on Friday like you planned, you’ll have to wait until next Wednesday.”

They required him to put in an 8-hour workday after he was done driving to the site…which drives might be anywhere from 30 minutes to 4 hours…and he did it, with a few weeks’ break when his son was born.  Otherwise, from the time he got engaged until yesterday, it was common for him to leave home at 5:30 or 6am and get home at 7 or 8pm, Monday through Friday.  Wife pregnant, infant son sick, whatever – they wanted him out there, and so he was out there.

Two weeks ago the bosses asked him to sell his home and move his family to Richmond and take over the whole southern half of Virginia as his territory as well.  Considering that his wife is working two jobs (one with a year’s contract) and his nice house in the country where he lives might barely sell for enough to buy a hovel in Richmond, he wisely turned them down.  At that point he knew that his time was pretty much up.  He went to work the last two Fridays thinking each day was his last day.  Well, he was off by one.  He had client meetings on last Friday so they let him keep those meetings.  Awfully nice of them.

Supposedly the guy who gave him the news yesterday offered to let him keep working…on commission alone.  Hell, they withheld his commission – basically a month’s salary for yours truly – from last year, supposedly so it would be paid when he “made his quota” this year.  Well, he made it last month.  Fat chance he’ll ever see that money now.  And they’ll graciously pay him about half of his accrued vacation time.  Thankfully, he told them “no thanks.”

So he began the few hours’ drive home from Richmond to tell his family he’d lost his job.  His laptop and cell phone belonged to the company – he had to turn them in, and couldn’t call to let them know…although after a while went by after the start of his “lunch meeting” and nobody had heard from him, they guessed.  Finally my sister-in-law called his cell phone and the dude who laid him off answered it.  That’s how his wife found out.

Not too long ago I was in the same boat.  I was about the same age as my brother is now, actually.  And my son was about the same age as his.  I watched my previous employer mistreat its employees, having forced-attendance rah-rah rallies while laying off a third of its staff.  I laid awake at night wondering what I’d do to support my wife and child.  I started applying for jobs…any jobs…overqualified, underqualified, no clue whatsoever how to do ’em.  I applied for jobs in completely different fields that would have been a 40% pay cut, just to get the hell away.  No bites, until finally my wife and I got up the guts to start trying outside the state.  I got ONE bite.  And that bite turned into the job I have now.

A month after I accepted this job, they laid off everyone up to and including the person above me on the seniority list.  With a smirk.

I’ve been lucky enough never to have been pink-slipped…yet.  It was a razor’s edge that year.  Last year it was a bit too close for comfort as well.  This coming year is liable to be worse than last year, frankly.  I guess we’ll have to see what happens, and roll with it when it does.  But in the meantime, y’all pardon me if I’m a little bit full of spite because some soulless bastards first lured in, then attempted to break, and then spited a perfectly good guy.

Especially since he’s my brother.


7 Responses

  1. The economy scares the pooh out of me. If not for the fact that we were even more afraid of being killed in our old neighborhood, we would have held onto our pennies and stayed put.

    Here is my wish: That we all (my blogger family) pull thru this fiasco in one piece. That our families stay strong thru the heart aches… And that we are able to find plenty in our lives to smile and laugh about.

    From reading some of your old posts, I’m glad you moved!

    That is one wish that’s as big as it is good. Let’s hope it comes true.

  2. The place my little sister works at is so short staffed, I don’t think they’d let her go. The place my parents work at on the other hand, well let’s just say I’m really hoping that I don’t have to live with my parents again.

    My brother’s old place was a skeleton crew before. I really think they’re circling the drain altogether. That “we can’t pay you right now” is the kind of stuff that makes me think they’re scrambling to save themselves, and damn the rest of the drones. I’ve seen that happen before.

    Like my dad said, too bad he didn’t have the sense to hold onto the computer and cell phone until they paid him what they owe him.

  3. Becca, I also work at a ridiculously short-staffed office. I badly want to leave to work for the state – my dad always says that there’s no company more unlikely to go out of business than the government.

    I’m very sorry about your brother losing his job…but honestly it doesn’t sound like the kind of place a decent guy should be working, anyway.

    Your dad is right, but the place I worked that was laying people off left right and center in the post-9/11 slump was a government job. Nobody is immune when it all comes down to it.

    As for the last part, I totally agree.

  4. These are definitely scary economic times. I’ve got friends who have been laid off, seen local businesses closing, you name it. We, so far, have been weathering the storm fairly well. I work in government in a small office where I do most of the work and if it came down to a budget issue, my boss would voluntarily go because he has no clue how to do most of what I do.

    And with Bill’s family owning a meat-processing business, people still have to eat and even if they don’t have cash, the shop accepts food stamps.

    But one never knows and I’m knocking wood that all will be well. Not just for us, but for everyone.

    Glad to hear things look relatively safe for you and yours! The last thing you want is “what’s gonna happen” kinda nervousness when you’re planning a blessed event such as yours!

    No, not THAT blessed event, the OTHER blessed event. 😉

  5. This happened to me at my first job, about 10 years ago. Every day we worked and stressed out and got no sleep because the president told us every day that there wasn’t any money to pay us but to have faith and work for free. A once bustling little company had 100+ employees whittled them down to 12. It sucked. I put in my notice (I decided to move to DC) and 5 days before my last day they laid me off. Nice, too, because I’d already quit and they figured they wouldn’t have to give me unemployment. Well, the HR lady had the sense to shred my resignation letter.

    Point is this: your brother’s company is full of spineless cowards and sadly your brother got the short end of the stick. Now’s the time to pull together. We’ll all get through this.

    Go HR lady!

    I agree with your assessment as to my brother’s former employers. I’m hoping this is the first step to a better work life for him.

  6. Sales are so tough right now. Salesmen are cutting commissions to make sales. The construction industry is being hurt and it is spreading quickly to suppliers and salesmen.

    Which is exactly the line of work he was in…construction supply.

    Not no’ mo’, Billy.

  7. I’m sorry to hear that. My father got laid off a couple of times when I was growing up, and it’s a horrible feeling. He was fortunate that one of the times he was laid off from a coal mine, legislation was in place to pay for retraining in the way of college…so it worked out in the end, but it was kind of rough for a while.

    That is definitely one of my biggest fears.

    Glad it worked out in the end; that’s kinda what I’m hoping for with my brother.

    It’s one of my biggest fears, too. With good reason, I think. It’s scary stuff.

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