Why am I Working Here?

First a brief overview of my past for those of you who missed it at the beginning (about 95% by my non-scientific analysis).

I grew up blue collar in a Detroit suburb. Went to a highly regarded mid-western university (does not go by the initials ND). Got a couple of very well-paying jobs.

Had two psychotic breaks. Discovered I was bipolar and my job stress had to go. Finally ended up stocking cheese at a big box store. Low stress; low money.

Started blog about work. Got bored with that. Moved on to other subjects. Which is why you are reading a blog called Adventures in Cheeseland that has nothing to do with cheese. Have been told it’s a very bad idea to change the name of the blog.

Life has been pretty good in cheeseland. I like the people (most of them). The work is low-stress. My hours are early, but I like them. We are unionized, but that’s not one of its selling points.

It’s family-owned. When I started it was run by a man who was philanthropic, family-oriented, and good to work for (if you’re looking for that type of work).

[Warning: from this point forward it’s sarcasm, not the kind of humor you usually see in my blog.]

Unfortunately, he died. His sons took over. From all appearances, they learned very little from their father except how nice life could be for them with a lot of money.

They have been steadily climbing the Forbes 500 list of wealthiest people. During the United Way campaign, they asked us to contribute to help support people earning less than $27,000 annually. No one in the room was making close to $27,000 annually.

They started to buy a lot of their inventory from China (not the food). In fact, they have opened a distribution center in China “to be closer to their suppliers.” Some slippage in quality; some increase in price.

Their store brand used to be comparable to the national brands. Now the only thing I will buy are the pasta and canned tomatoes (to start the pasta sauce). They raised the price on cheese so high that sales started to drop.

The company hired a non-unionized workforce to do some of the stocking. Higher pay, same benefits as the rest of us. The union said to let them know if anyone had their hours cut because of these people.

Excuse me?! All of the work they are doing should be done by union workers. Michigan is now a right-to-work state. But standing by while the company pays non-union workers more money is not one of the definitions of right-to-work. At least is wasn’t when I did employee benefits.

When Michigan raised the minimum wage, the union made no attempt to get a higher wage cap for the employees who were already above that level. I’m guessing the idea never crossed the brothers’ minds.

The union contract is up next year. We no longer need to belong and pay dues. They may want to start working a little harder. Even the stewards are advising that we get rid of them. (They did save the job of a guy who went totally ballistic when someone took his food out of the microwave after he left the room.)

But all of that pales next to the company’s most recent initiative.

Work-motion studies have been around for more than a century. (Anyone remember “Cheaper by the Dozen”?) But the company seems to have created theirs without actually studying what the employees do.

Their basic idea is to get the maximum number of employees at work during the busiest times of day. Sounds logical, right? In fresh foods they do it by taking the people who set up the departments and having them start 2 to 3 hours later.

Problem? Nothing is set when the customer levels increase. Solution? Don’t change the standards for when the set-up needs to be done. But don’t allow workers to have carts on the floor because that’s inconvenient for the customers.

Employee can’t meet the standard? Write him/her up.

Best usage of this idea? In the bakery they have moved the slowest person to a schedule that requires her to do the majority of the baking before the store gets busy. Hope she doesn’t currently have any performance points. We only get 12 before we’re terminated.

There is ABSOLUTELY NO OVERTIME. Yes, the memos capitalize it. Currently, we can work 7 extra minutes each day without incurring overtime. It’s helpful when you’re trying to help a customer or finish a display.

We are moving to being paid by the minute. Which means that we can have 7 extra minutes per week before we have overtime. But we get paid for those extra minutes. And we get written up for that 8th minute. Seriously.

If we are helping a customer and it gets close to quitting time, either the team leader needs to take over or we need to call the manager to see if we can stay the extra time. Seriously.

Did I mention that the store is understaffed? The only ones who want to work here can’t pass the background check. Seriously.

I’m guessing that by now you understand why I no longer write about work. Work is no longer humorous.

I wonder if there’s a call for cat-sitters around here?

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21 thoughts on “Why am I Working Here?

  1. Oh, I feel you. We’re in NJ. I’m sure you know who our esteemed governor is, and he’s been working very hard to collapse the teachers union since he got elected. Here’s the problem. The union sucks, but it’s the ONLY thing standing between him and us. Don’t kill the union, fix it, because the instant that fine line between you and your employers is gone… What do you think will happen? That they’ll raise your pay and give you better benefits because they got their way? HA!
    Stay strong.

  2. I no longer want you to write about work, Cat. I used to love to read about your work. Sigh. I think I would really like to read about cat-sitting. The cats know how to write where you live!

  3. Your companies asset is not cheese………..it’s humans. This apples to all companies.
    When the company puts the product (money) ahead of it’s employees,it’s basically a slow ride downhill from that point on. The patriarch understood this very simple principal,but as you already stated,the sons have not.
    start looking elsewhere, would be the best advice I could give?
    good luck
    W

  4. All I can say is with all I went through with my union — I can offer a bit of empathy. You should look into the cat sitting. I’m from a very small city and I have a friend who pet sits. Sometimes it is only to walk a dog during the day — others she stays at the house with the pets while the owner is gone for a week or two. Hope you find peace whereever you work. 😀

  5. Office politics, bullying and restructuring can put more stress on you than the work itself, so don’t let it upset you too much. Unfortunately you will find these stresses wherever you work.

    • True enough. I found out today that they’ve changed their policy on “sick time”. They never paid us, but if it lasted 3 days or more and brought in a doctor’s note, we only got one discipline point. Now they’ve decided that since doctors can be pretty lenient, we will be charged for every day we miss. Very early twentieth century sweatshop.

      • Do you have any recourse withe the state labor board or any civil rights advocacy group? It seems as though there should be somewhere to turn for help.

      • The union is supposed to protect us. Michigan has become a right to work state, but the union doesn’t seem to understand that unless they start working for us they will be gone.

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