18 11 2013

I feel like I’m tumbling into the end of the year.  I think I’ll land okay, and there probably won’t be too much in the way of damage, but I’m anticipating standing up with sticks and leaves in my hair.

Part of it is just the usual holiday hectic.  Which I kind of got ahead of this year, making a bunch of gifts for my nieces and nephews, rather than trying to find things for them from the various catalogs.  This year they’re all getting hand-spun, hand-knitted items…the good news is that they are all old enough to appreciate that kind of a gift.  The average two-year-old would be less than impressed, but the nieces and nephews are all in their teens and twenties now.  I’m thinking at some point we’re going to need to think about cutting back on the Christmas thing at that level; this year isn’t that time.

Then last week my son had his wisdom teeth pulled out – again, one of those rites of the late teens and early twenties, and he came through it fine.  It was just one of those anxiety-provoking procedures, as it seems like everyone needs to share their dental horror stories once they hear you’re going to have your wisdom teeth taken care of.

The thing throwing me into upheaval now is the work situation… which, welcome to the new working model for corporate America.  Many corporations now rely on “contract workers,” or what we used to refer to as temporaries.  There was a time when companies used temporary hires as a way of screening potential employees; it was frustrating to be that temporary hire, knowing that you were on some kind of probation, but there was the sense that there was a reward at the end.

That’s gone now.  The company I work for is staffed by approximately 50% contract workers, and that’s at the corporate world headquarters.  I’m one of them.  And it’s a deal I was willing to make, given where I am in my career and the options I have.  But last week many of us were informed that the company, in order to hit its year-end financial targets, will be putting most of the contractors “on furlough” for the month of December.  And again, I’m one of them.  The expectation seems to be that we’re still on contract, but we get to sit tight for the month, without a paycheck, and then come back to work again.

It is…wounding to be treated in this way.  American workers are under siege by the corporations.  I’m in a better position than so many because I’m in a STEM field, and there is nearly always employment to be had there.  But employment is not what it once was, and the expectations that I grew up with – long-term employment with a company, with eventual retirement when you’re ready – have been demolished.  I still cling to the idea of job security, even when I know that there is no longer any such thing.  It’s one thing for me.  It’s another thing to watch our children dealing with a radically changed job market.  I see every one of them worrying about their futures in a way my generation didn’t have to.

For me, it’s kind of like sitting down and discovering that the chair has been moved.  I had the air knocked out of me for a bit.  But now, I’ll spend that time at home getting some other things done, and considering options.  I’ll finally get some painting done, after literally years of putting it off.  I’m going to experiment with bath products and see if this might not be an interesting path forward.  And I’m going to be grateful that I can get through this month without panicking about losing my home or turning off utilities.

Heaven knows this isn’t true for a lot of workers.   Entire communities – hell, entire states – are being terrorized and held hostage by major corporations who promise to take their businesses somewhere else if they don’t get their way.   So they get their tax breaks, and their advantaged business position, and they continue to send the jobs away out of the country even after all their demands are met.  It is unconscionable.




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