30 July 2006

Number 3; in which the manager is replaced by a new guy

[Originally posted 30July2006  -  This letter was to the staff of the last full-time job I ever held.  I posted it in the break room for everyone to read. 
Since then, in addition to being self-employed (biodieselhauling) I have worked only part-time, only for not-for-profits, and only for companies whose mission I believe in and wish to support: The BikeStation (community bikeshop which offers free secure parking to anyone with a bicycle), the local Bike Coalition (an advocacy group that gets cities to install bike lanes and other bike and pedestrian friendly improvements), the local election commission (as a polling place supervisor) and the United States Coast Guard (as a reserve mechanic and contingency boatcrew member.]

  • Jul 30, 2006

Number 3; in which the manager is replaced by a new guy

To the ***** Staff:
I have worked a lot of different places, and never have I been to one where any good ideas were actually implemented in the long run.  If we are just to be told things like pay attention, show up on time, and no overtime, I can read the signs, and I, like everyone else, am no more or less likely to do those things because I am told in person.  Incidentally, the 10 or so all capital letter signs filled with orders, warnings, and threats, in the break room are not exactly great for morale.  Nothing is better to ensure unhappy customers than unhappy employees.
I have been working closing shifts, disrupting my sleep patterns and getting sick for $9.25 an hour and no benefits (even though I had been working 32 to 40 hours for a few months). Now, my hours have been drastically cut. I haven't complained, but I'm not getting up at 6:30am for this.  Instead, Ill write what everyone else has been thinking but which probably no one will bring up at the meeting.
It seems our current management sees the associates only as a factor of productivity and cost.  There are some people here who don't need the income from this job or who have other options, and they are all going to be lost; some have quit already.  There are some people here who have been here a long time, who know there job extremely well, work hard, and rarely take breaks; some of us never do. If you look at a person and only see what they cost you per hour (its the company's money, not yours) or if you only look at whats left to be done and not what has been done, eventually you will end up with just the employees who are lazy, who are not that bright, or who are new and do not really know the job too well. 
Apparently, this is actually the plan.  I was told that the people who have been here the longest make way too much money.  Another employee was told that new people were being hired so that gradually all the old people could be gotten rid of.  Don't get me wrong - I personally like all the new hires; they all seem like bright, hard-working people.  But it takes time to pick everything up.  There will always be turn over, but many companies actually reward loyalty instead of looking for an excuse to fire people.
This might save you a few dollars a day in payroll, but that means the lines move just a little slower, the head clerks have a little more work to do and a little more stress, customers aren't helped, and a few more will never come back.  It means the employees who know what they are doing have to pick up the slack, draining morale from everyone, so we have a little less patience in dealing with obnoxious customers.
Push people to do more work in a day, and they feel obligated to get everything done.  That's why so many overtime hours got clocked.  Now, we aren't supposed to get overtime, so we work through breaks (which is illegal by the way - that's exactly what Wal-Mart got sued over).
This store makes money - lots of it. We are the top fourth or fifth in sales amongst about 50 stores. What ever has been done so far is working.  Now you want to push the employees harder, cut hours, and limit the flexibility of their hours. You might ask, Why try to fix something which isn't broken?  If the store were losing money, then of course shake things up and whip it into shape.  As it is, you have a lot of the good people leaving, going to better jobs, and there is a reason for that.
I know my job well, I work hard, Ive been here almost a year, and I'm still at $9.25.  Some new hires have been offered $8.50 even though everyone else has started at $9.  Even $9 an hour, in an area of one of the highest costs of living in the world, is hardly motivation for anyone to show up on time or work especially hard or fast.
My advice to anyone planning to stay more than a few months would be to start looking into local retail unions.  It would have never occurred to me to say such a thing under the management I was hired under, but then the old management seemed to actually respect their employees.
Perhaps UFCW local 373R (http://www.ufcw373r.org/)

[note, added 01FEB2012: Of course I got fired for failing to show up to that meeting.  I considered (and threatened) to sue on the grounds that it was rally retaliation for encouraging unionizing (afterall, the assistant manager skipped the meeting as well, but wasn't reprimanded for it), but in the end I took my last check and moved on - afterall, I had intended it all along as a part-time job while I was in school, and I had just graduated, and I was already looking for a real job at the time.  Besides, the only reason I had ever worked there was a long-time personal friend was the manager, and of course, he was the one who had just been replaced.
In the end the new manager got transferred to some other branch, giving him a good 50 mile commute, in the next month or two, and the last time I peeked in there (about a year later) every single employee was someone new.  I, meanwhile, started advertising on Craigslist with my big truck and tools and a lifetimes worth of experience in fixing things, and went from charging $20/hr (the most I had made per hour in my life) to $30 to my current $40 - plus fuel charge - so I work far fewer hours and make a whole heck of a lot more money.
Sometimes getting fired is the best possible thing that could ever happen to you.  My advice?  Never be afraid to be the one person to speak up to your jack-ass of a boss.]


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