Sunday
Dec112005

« That Floor-Falling-Out Feeling »

Well, I feel justified in proclaming loudly that the corporate mindset is shit. Let me tell you a tale of woe.

I started work at this AV Concepts place on August 8. I was hired to be a shop guy, doing check outs and check ins of gear, some troubleshooting and maintenance, and generally being part of the warehouse scene. I also am a driver, usually doing errands around town, or even up to LA, but also for gig delivery and pickup. I've driven on two occasions to the Bay Area, or just shy of there to Monterey and Half Moon Bay, in both instances being two- and three-day affairs. I've done full time work usually with the exceptions of certain days when they pared back my hours by four- or eight- hours, resulting in a few weeks of 32 hours. Some days I've done ten hours in the shop. My drive days to northern California were counted as 14- and 15- hour engagements.

Last week, I did three ten hour days, drove to North Hollywood and Huntington Beach, and back and forth across town. I coached a new guy. I busted ass on loading and unloading trucks during a very heavy week of work. I had a cold for three of the days and was feverish one of the days.

I get paid $11 an hour for this, $16.50 for time and a half, and $22 for the special days when I get past 12 hours. Coincidentally, the days when I have gotten 14 hours in, they have also warranted per diem pay of $47 per day on top of all the wage earnings. Those days, particularly when driving solo up the 101 highway, are days I don't mind turning out for work. But most days are not like that at all.

Truck loading. Unloading. Barcode entry on damn near every piece of gear and each roadcase. Fetching stuff all over the shop. Walking on concrete, standing for hours at a time with no real chance to sit. Solder cables sometimes. Bend. Squat. Lift. Push heavy shit. (I weighed a roadcase once and it was 1019 pounds with its contents of possibly 1000' of heavy gauge power and lighting cable—not typical, but even the 700 pound variety is not the same as sitting at a desk, and even lifting the 300 pound versions above chest height can be a bit much.) Listen to krunkity old geezers bark orders at people, and between themselves. Not a comfortable place with no ventilation. Get orders from all over. Go out for a drive and drop everything for now. Quality check components and diagnose damaged gear.

That's my job. I've passed a threshold of sorts where once I used to be totally worn out and sore at the end of the day. Better shoes helped a lot. But still, it's good for generating some tiredness. I try to preserve my sanity by retaining Sundays to myself so I can do any of my church related things, and spend time with Kelli. Given that Sunday does tend to have a few hours of church related responsibility, it's not really a day of leisure, so I asked that I be scheduled to work on as few Saturdays as possible. I had two further stipulations, and they were that I would not be asked to work OVERTIME on Tuesday and Thursday nights. So, no Sundays, minimal Saturdays, and no OT on two nights a week so I can go to counseling (I didn't specify counseling, but I did say that the times were locked in with wife and one other person, and have been for a long time). There have been times when I was asked to come in early, at 7, or 6, or once even at 5 am for a drive to Los Angeles. I did each of those. I've stayed late on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. I've done a Saturday or two. I've even stayed a bit late on Tuesdays or Thursdays to show I'm a good sport. I've even taken my two- and three- day gigs out of town spanning from Wednesday through Thursday and Friday, cancelling counseling on Thursday on two consecutive weeks to do these trips because it all added up into such an irresistable deal financially, and they had the courtesy of asking me days in advance and not just assuming I'd do it.

One day back in October, about two months after I started, there was an instance when the salesman who secured a show account didn't stop to consider if I had any schedule constraints. Why would he? The company manual basically says that the company is going to run your life and that they will take priority over other work and obligations (I read this a little late). On this day, he came up to me and just started talking about gig details with me like I knew I was on the gig and had already been briefed. Well, I had not really done much in the way of gigging with this company as it was, so it was odd to have him talking about this. I wasn't even sure if he knew if I was the right guy. I asked him when this gig was, and he said it was going to be in the afternoon for set up, and would go till about 9 pm—on THURSDAY. So I told him that I couldn't do it, and hadn't he heard? I gave the warehouse manager my schedule, and he seemed okay with it. So salesman boy goes off and gets the head manager and expresses his shock that I can't do the gig, and why can't I? So the manager came over and asked me for some explanation. Within a few minutes, I was made to feel ridiculed when he looked at me and said I would not be as valuable an employee if they couldn't schedule me. The gig got handed down to one guy but he couldn't do it on short notice, then it got handed to the fellow who is audio supervisor, just above me. He got saddled with one boring ass gig and had the misfortune to have accidentally left the shop door unlocked when he returned at 10 pm, and he got written up for it. I didn't mean for that to happen to anyone. I just didn't want to bail out on my prior commitment on less than a day's notice.

This year, my birthday fell on a Wednesday. I worked overtime during one of the few extremely busy weeks they've had since I got there. My birthday was on a day when Kelli was at school, so we decided to have our event on the Saturday to follow. The company was also booked solid that day, and guys had to come in for that morning. I was asked if I could work, and I told them no, I got plans for my birthday, and since I worked overtime on the actual day, I was going to enjoy it with wife and friends on Saturday. The warehouse manager, who ordinarily does not rub me the wrong way because we respect each other gave me a little guilt trip about how I get to pick my hours but the others don't and how Saturday was one of the few killer days for everyone, and so forth. This was a clear crack in the wall.

So, the business of my cherrypicked schedule has been an issue for them. I've been persistent in defending it, and they don't like it. I've told them that my wife goes to school for three days a week, and the weekend is really the only time we get a relationship, because Monday and Tuesday are days when I work and she needs to spend all her time studying and writing. I've said I am the sole income earner, and that my life has been real tumultuous lately and that I need stability more than anything, and that my requests for time off are not frivolous. I wrote a letter to the ops manager who obviously had the biggest problem with this all, and told him this, and begged for his consideration that I wasn't trying to weasle out of anything, but that I need some balance and stability. I reminded him of the early morning call times and other overtime, and so forth.

My 90 day review was supposed to be on 11/8 and a day or two later, I inquired about it. Early on he almost assured me a raise of a dollar if I wasn't some sort of a fuckup, so, not feeling fuckupish, I didn't feel bad about asking for my review. He told me that he has been so busy with other things that no one has gotten a review in a while, and that he will get to them. He encouraged me to hold on because any pay raise would be retroactive to the date of the intended review. Well, if it was a month, I could see it. He told me the last part of December was slow, so I was sincerely hoping that I'd get a raise to help offset any loss of hours or days. On the day before Thanksgiving, we had a company "town hall meeting" with the owners, and during the open forum part, I inquired about the reviews and if they would be forthcoming. The ops manager took the opportunity to chastise me for sneaking that question in in front of his boss and all assembled. The way I see it is this: if I need money in December, a retroactive raise in March isn't going to help.

Sensing that I was getting on their bad side, I offered two things: one was to show some interest in getting a class B license so I could drive bigger trucks (and open up the door to non-shop days, overtime, per diem earning days, etc.), and the other was to take my schedule constraints off for a few weeks in December if doing so would help me retain 40 hours or something close to it for the slow season. No developments there.

On 12/8, I marked my 4th month there, and coincidentally, there was a meeting upstairs at 10:00 am to introduce the new health care plan the company was adopting. At 9:30 I was called into the office and our receptionist put a paper in front of me. It was the sort of page that would accompany my review. So my review was *only* a month late, and I started to fill it out. Then, the ops manager came by and just about snatched it out of my hand, and said he'd fill it in, and to come on into his office. Swift moving, he shut the door and had me sit down. He was barely seated before he let me know I didn't pass my 90 day review. Then he told me how my cherry picked schedule has cost him "thousands of dollars to work around" as he's needed to hire freelancers or other shop guys into overtime, or whatever. He told me that he was going to give me another 90 day probation but that I would be reduced to a "part time/temporary" position of less than 30 hours a week, which in this coming month or so, given next to no work to do, might mean that I get nothing for weeks at a time—effectively an invitation for me to leave. I reiterated my situation like I wrote in my letter. No flex. He didn't want to hear it. I felt the floor fall out from under me. He didn't even want to entertain talk of my rescinding my custom schedule and just being one of the boys who take it up the ass any time a gig comes up and needs to be worked (except for Sunday, which he agreed was discussed in our first meeting in July).

I just lost it in there. I teared up uncontrollably. This is exactly the shit I knew would come down since almost two months ago when all this shit started happening. There has been talk about my custom schedule being an issue, and sometimes it comes back to me from other employees, even if in jest. But here it was, early December before Christmas and a slow month that was already making me nervous. Only the first half was going to be bearable. Kelli and I have been thinking of moving from this apartment in February (requiring that I give notice here on the first of January—not likely now), and suddenly that idea was all but wiped out. I was heartbroken. I didn't even get wiggle room but to get him to give me the reduced hours. Apparently the money they paid to train me was better honored by keeping me.

So all this was done by 9:45 or so, and I was officially not invited to the health care meeting since I was not going to be eligible, having lost my full time status and all. Just before all this went down, one of the owners came by and offered us a bag of tangerines from his yard. When I spotted the handful of tangerines I took, I got this heartbroken fear that some citrus fruit (especially on this day when I had a wicked cold starting) was going to be about the best health care program I was going to get from this company. For lunch, everyone was enjoying pizza and salad that the company bought for the shop guys. I couldn't eat. All I could do is hide my head in shame for the utter despair I felt. Sick, tired, insulted. Fuck pizza. I went to my truck and slept for my lunch break. I couldn't even eat if I wanted to. I found a decent audience in the chance to at least vent to my audio department supervisor, who only learned of all this from another guy I ranted to who was on the shop floor when the others were in the health insurance meeting. Each at least gave me the chance to vent and flood out even with the tears.

The next day, on Friday, I kept my distance and tried to do better, but was still over the top angry with this shitty return on my investment of time and labor. I tried once again to talk to the boss when he handed me my check, but he didn't go for it. I talked to my warehouse manager about it and he did indeed vouch for the fact that I was reliable when I was there, and that I was always there when I said I could be, and took on some extra jobs for the asking. He at least understood my situation. He told me he'd put in his two cents to try to salvage things.

So that is where I am at the moment. I don't know if they are just going to hang me out to dry or not. I will have to find some other work if I can't do my usual FT gig there. I don't make excuses why I can't do the full time stuff, and I take on overtime, both early and late, and I do other stuff. I just don't fellate the corporate cock at all hours of the day and night. My life is too important to hand it all over willingly. If other guys want to do things this way, fine. Some are starving and 24 and don't care. I played that game for years, and didn't like it, and would like to avoid it if I can. As far as I care, my time at counseling, church, and with my wife is what makes life worth living, not doing a fucking corporate gig that will throw me out as soon as they can't get their way. They pay a freelancer $300 or so a day to do a gig, but would pay me the same hourly wage if I am in the shop or on the gig. The gig just might take longer since it has to start and end at some point. Really, what I asked for was "no OVERTIME on Tuesday and Thursday unless it's critical or planned, and minimal Saturdays." There are guys in the shop who get to call some shots like 'never put me on show sites' or 'never call me in once I am gone for the day' or some things like that.

So tell me. Is this warranted? I don't think I am being unreasonable.

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