Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Hearing the Call

Something kind of amazing just happened in a company-wide conference call that I was part of.

The non-amazing part involved both furloughs and pay reductions. Basically taking away 20% of people's paychecks in the 10 weeks leading up to Christmas.

The amazing part was during the Q+A portion. These things are usually restrained exchanges, if anyone even feels the need to ask a question.

But this time a woman, whose husband is also an employee, spoke out. You could hear both anger and tears in her voice as she asked how they were supposed to get by and pay their bills. She, along with everyone else in the rank and file, took a large pay cut earlier this year. Most of us earn very modest salaries to begin with. Why was the salvation of the company being placed on the backs of its lowest paid workers?

Naturally, the executives had no real answer to her question. The economy is in the tank, you may have heard.

Perhaps emboldened by her candor, several more callers from across the country expressed similar exasperation/despair.

In the overall scheme of things, the outrage means nothing. The corporation must do what it must do, in order to survive. The millionaires who pull the strings cannot relate to the marionettes so far below them.

But maybe today the company's president got to understand, just a little, that those budget figures represent real people. Skilled people. Good people. People who will have to run up debt to put gifts under the Christmas tree, who will juggle to pay their bills, who will pray that nothing breaks or leaks, that no one gets sick.

We'll get by. Driving a 10-year-old car, throwing blankets over the holes in the couch, stretching the kids' clothes so they don't grow out of them so fast. No savings, no vacations, basic cable, voice-only cell plans, crappy cheap food and avoiding the doctor to save those $20 copays.

Such is life in the new Millennium. Ain't it grand?