Thursday, December 10, 2009

A Word to the Wise: Pay Unemployment!

Sometimes we here at My Bladder is Full, are braced with the fact that some of this stuff can get downright serious.

Orlando police are now saying that a deranged gunman - and funny how these words flow so easily together, today - who in November walked into his former job site killing one, and wounding others, was angry after being fired in 2007. Why? The bosses had fought him over collecting his unemployment benefits, the newspapers are telling us.

Several employees were very nearly expecting it, according to the account in today's AP story. Otherwise, how do you explain the fact they feared he might come back armed? "'... 'cause we knew he was a little off," co-workers told the Orlando paper.

Employers, and co-workers, we're ALL a little off, okay? Now more than ever, as Nixon used to say. Assume we're all under pressure, we're all a little off. Tasteless references about "going postal" and "AR-15s" aside, there is no excuse for committing a violent act against co-workers former coworkers or bosses. None.

The case of Jason Rodriguez is particularly tragic. Not paying someone's unemployment compensation claim should not be a capital offense, ever. And target selection in these cases is often random by the time the disgruntled gunman makes it to the front door. By the time they "go there" the assailant usually has a dead-pan, expressionless gaze; so far removed from that of a thinking human being they aren't recognizable to the people they aim at. Nor do they appear to recognize their targets, certainly not as human beings and co-workers.

But having said that I want to ask employers out there, how smart do they think they are by playing some of the games they play with peoples' lives? By quibbling over unemployment benefits in today's market?

Awe that doesn't happen? Awe c'mon.

Yeah? Bullshit. Grow the fuck up, of course it does!

I say this in the most general sense, not directed at this particular firm that suffered this unthinkable tragedy: If you have a hard-working employee who needs to go because of the downturn, don't fuck around with it, pay the goddamned benefits! Okay?...asshole!?

In my personal case, I was fired after I had made a complaint to human resources, because my boss, a female, had said something to me so egregiously wrong, and foul, I couldn't let it slide. By the time this happened, though, I could see the writing on the wall. I knew it was coming and had packed my "carry-on," so to speak.

The fact I made the complaint before getting the axe - and they were looking to downsize and I was the last one hired, so we do the math - likely secured that I would be collecting unemployment. A smart move.

Further wise on my part, I sent myself an email, immediately AFTER the harrassing comment was made, then I let it sit for a few weeks, and I watched her for further, nutty behavior designed to get me to pop-off and start hollering at her, thus, ruining my chances at collecting unemployment.

The email to my home computer from my office, through the company server (because if they erase something incriminating, folks, THAT'S INTENT), documented the time, and precise context of the conversation. That's called using your head, people: learn from it.

This way, if I had started an official complaint immediately after the comment was made, (and we were outside the front door of the office, and alone when this bad conversation took place,) I had protected myself even against her lying about the nature of the conversation (i.e. that I harrased her, pulled my wee-wee out: that sort of thing). Her move was obviously calculated, so I played the same game right back. I had them six ways to Sunday.

Not that I can support a family on the pittance in unemployment benefits. Thank God my wife works, because I am still looking for work, and I mean, there is NU-THING out here!!! Especially in my town, with the sun-setting of the Shuttle Program everyone knows to pare down, not hire more.

Was I angry at my treatment at the hands of my bosses? You bet I was. In journalism we have a saying it's called the "beat your wife" question.

"How often do you beat your wife?"

"I don't beat my wife!"

"When did you stop?"

Let's just spare you the details and say, I was asked a "beat your wife" question.

Ooooo man! Was I pissed. But, I have a family, see? I have a support system, and since Florida is a right-to-fire state, I have seen so much in the way of this unbelievable gamesmanship played on me, and on coworkers over the years, by bosses who take it as a point of locker-room pride that they got rid of someone without having to pay unemployment, I wasn't so shocked I didn't see it coming, nor so incensed by it that I was leaning toward violence, or even vandalism.

Editor and Publisher just went out of business after 108 years. Speaking of this august publication, I once worked at a little bitty newspaper in a neighboring county that was eventually swallowed up by a daily, which was then swallowed up by a chain. My editor was kept on for the better part of a year by our mutual boss and publisher, and then hounded, run down like a dog, before he was finally let go. How did they finally do it? They published his job description in Editor and Publisher, then "someone" left a copy of this ad on his desk. "Gee...sorry to hear you're leaving" kinda deal. He made some volcanic comment, and next day, his presence was noted in the negative column.

The same sort of thing happened with me a year later, although working sometimes 70 hours a week and only being paid for 40, did pay off eventually; I fought them to a standstill with hard work, then showed the unemployment office my time sheets, wherein I was urged to falsify, precisely 40 hours, for a solid year. A solid year without a vacation.

The clue? "No one works precisely 40 hours a week for 52 consecutive weeks in the news business, ever. Just too many variables. Not one time was the employee paid overtime? As a reporter, I was deemed "hourly." In this state they take a very dim view of doing this to hourly people. It's a method designed to get them to walk off the job.

"We see this all the time, from them" I was told. During the year they ran me down, I would often re-write the same news item seven times, to please a team of editors. Remember I had been a competitor acquired, not chosen, not hired, in a corporate purchase. The enemy within! I would slavishly comply with the vagauries of this editing process, only to see the first rendition of the news story fall on the page. Copies. I kept copies of the edits, some were simply outrageous, and copies of what eventually ran on the page. Nice beginnings of a lawsuit if, I had pushed it. Harrasment? Yes, there was an element of that in it. Hostile? Oh, hell yes.

So in my case, here this company was wasting my time, and theirs for more than a year, risking a massive lawsuit for the simple "fuck-you" effect: attempting not to pay me unemployment. Where ego meets God-awful stupidity. Going to such lengths to perhaps medically, emotionally wound another individual, not to mention waste the money of actually PAYING them, for an entire year when you don't want them working for you in the first place?! Fucking juvenile.

Here's another example: this one more serious. I had a teammate on my college cross country squad named Matt Beck. A hell of a nice guy. Funny, engaging. Great Boston accent, all kinds of excellent, sick jokes.

Years and years go by. For whatever reason, in 1998 Matty went into his place of work at the Connecticut State Lottery and killed four people before turning the gun on himself. If you read the account, you see not just a ' crazed, lone gunman', but a human being with a story. Although, crazed lone gunman, oh yeah, he became one in the end.

How does an enaging nice young man that I knew, become this iconic figure we are all dealing with now, either in the flesh, or in our minds? Because even though we haven't met him yet, we still think about him in this environment. Is he the guy we shoved out the door, just last week? Is he the one who worked for us for five years, then we fired him for stealing a goddamned stapler, just to keep our unemployment costs down?!

If so, how fucking slick does that really make us, in this day and age?

Like I say, all kidding aside, we need to think about this. Now more than ever.

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