(This series chronicles the experiences of Leslie Jacobs, Founder of “Les Mess”).
With one remark made in 2008, my whole life changed.
It started with my boss telling me and my co-worker that layoffs would be happening. In a friendly way, my boss whispered to me, “Leslie, you’ll be the one laid off.”
It made sense, I was the last one hired almost 8 years ago and the only other employee was the 70-year-old office manager. She had been there for 22 years and would not retire. She had too many bills to pay. We both worked for a union at UCONN Health Center. We were employed by the union and belonged to another union, Unite Here, paying them over $10 dollars per pay period and receiving an occasional phone call. My union representative was the office manager, but since she had stopped talking to me 8 months prior, there was no communication about helping me keep my job.
My boss had asked me if I wanted to file a complaint and she explained the complaint would be against her, not the office manager. I liked my boss and did not want to cause her any trouble. She hated the fact that the office manager was not talking to me. My boss took me out to lunch and asked, “After you leave, whom do you think she will stop talking too next?” We laughed.
They laid me off because of money. They told me they needed to eliminate my position to hire someone to lobby the state of Connecticut to raise money for the UCONN Health Center. (It was finally voted on this week to spend over $800 million to do this. Therefore, my measly $50,000 salary would not have a significant impact on this. Actually, they spent $50,000 that year on Tchotchkes for the membership to celebrate their 35th year as a union).
I loved working there. I use the word working lightly because some weeks there was nothing to do but talk to the office manager, have a nice breakfast, answer a few phones and read newspapers online. Some days I would walk into work and see my boss reading romance novels or talking to her online boyfriends. The office manger was always buying something online through eBay or other online shops. I bought things online too and, during our lunch times, the office manager and I would go out to get something and then come back for lunch — making our lunch hour into two. There were days when members or former members would come in, grab a soda, and spend an hour just shooting the bull.
How could I not love working there?
Then, there were days and weeks when we would be answering phones as fast as we could, organizing protests, lobby days and other union activities. When everything was going well, it was a great place to work. However, the last 10 months were horrible and I was ready for a change. I even prayed for it.
Then, it was April and the day came when I was told I would be the one laid off. My last day would be in August 2008.
Interestingly enough, I was still trying to keep my job. Every year there is a general meeting where the 2,300 members are invited to a dinner at a very swanky place. We were told that this year we would not be paid, but were asked to volunteer our time. The office manager who was keeping her job said, “No pay, no work.” I was the putz who gave up 5 hours of my life to show them I wanted to keep my job.
Being laid off was not necessarily a bad thing because the silence with the office manager was hard to take, even though we were great friends.
The others in the office, the union president and vice president, were not very friendly either. It became apparent that the president was getting rid of the vice president
in a very interesting way — using others to do her dirty work.
It was a very interesting time to work for the union, but not morally or emotionally healthy in any way. I was ready to leave. I actually sang as I drove off the property and on to my new life.
Sure, I was angry, hurt, and upset. However, when one door closes (and this one slammed hard), another one opens.
I was waiting for that door to open…
Leslie Jacobs is a professional organizer, writer, playwright, and creator of the ONLY card organizing game in the world called “Les Mess.” She appeared in magazines and on television, most notably the Fox News Channel and the Nate Berkus Show. Jacobs gives seminars and speeches on how to get and stay organized. To buy her book, Survival in the Unemployment Line, please go to her website LesMess.com or Amazon.com.