Nearly three months having passed since I last wrote, I return with trepidation. I skimmed over my last few blog entries to get an idea of where my head was in the last quarter. In the midst of my father's passing was where I found myself. In the time that has slipped by since then there have been a number of events that have given me pause. They deal with daily life, work, family and future.
A new union contract at my place of employment has put a new perspective on a great deal of my daily life. The changes from the previous contract are significant. Top of the list would be a nine percent pay cut coupled with a completely new health care package that involves new costs and restrictions. There was also the loss of a week of vacation and the elimination of the job I currently perform. That doesn't mean I lost my job, it means I have to bump a less senior person off their job and take that one. While this has happened numerous times in the past, the current incarnation of the procedure lends itself to a paradigm shift in my overall perception of my job and near term future.
I have an opportunity to get a class A commercial driver's license with this change. I have had a class B license for about twenty years and have had the occasion to use it on the side for part time employment to supplement my income. Obtaining a class A license that will accompany me when I retire from the company in a few short years will provide an additional opportunity for work once I actually do retire. Wait...doesn't retirement mean ceasing to work? Well, at most times and in most economies it does. However, living in the San Francisco Bay Area the cost of living is astronomically high. I have been fortunate enough to earn enough so that my wife has been able to stay home and raise our kids and be a homemaker once they were old enough to fend for themselves. Now that the kids are (mostly) out of the house, my pay has descended to levels slightly above the rate I was making twenty five years ago when I started here. That does not bode well for the future. I want to be able to retire and live comfortably on my pension and whatever income I may need to earn to supplement that.
The new health care package involves changing from a PPO with little or no restrictions on who or where we went for care as long as they were in the network to an HMO. Previously we had no co-pays for office visits or medications. Great coverage you say? Yes it was. We paid dearly to maintain our coverage. Our contractual pay raises were diverted to pay for the rising costs of our health care coverage. Our new HMO has co-pays for office visits and prescriptions. We are able to stay in a Teamster plan so we retain our retirement healthcare benefit. That is essentially the only reason I stay at my current job. Sad but true. The few years I need to reach retirement are what keeps me there.
Years ago I could say that I actually enjoyed my job. We still had the worst schedules of anyone in the valley but in the past we earned enough to make it worthwhile. We had five weeks of vacation that was well deserved. This job takes it's toll on your body and your home life. You essentially live on the opposite side of the clock from the rest of your family. The middle of my work day is the middle of their night. I'm punching out and heading home when their alarm clocks are ringing. If one makes it to retirement they most assuredly posses numerous surgical scars from repairs of rotator cuffs, knee ligaments or replacements, back surgeries. The list goes on. I earned a good wage and had good benefits so subjecting myself to the rigors of the job seemed worth it since I kept a roof over our head, food on our table and we seemed to have a decent amount of disposable income. There was also camaraderie with the other guys I worked with. We could have fun, work hard and earn a good living. Fast forward to the present day.
I recently found out that I qualify for P.G.&E.'s low income rate assistance. That was an eye opening moment. I realize the industry I work in is breathing it's last gasps of breath. I know for sure that the company I currently work for does not care one bit for the struggles of it's workers. It's their bottom line. Cut, reduce, consolidate. Whatever needs to be done so the profit margin maintains some elusive level. At the moment I'm reevaluating the basic services that we bring into our home in order to see which are necessary and which are luxuries. I find us shopping more at Dollar Tree and looking for bargains in even more earnest. Juggling bill payments between paychecks seems to be my part time job now.
I don't want this to sound like I am whining because I honestly am not. I am trying to frame my current point of view and how it affects my perception of the future. I can't hardly stand the wait until I can leave this place. I know I can get an exponentially more satisfying job than this one doing something I like to do for a company that appreciates my efforts. We are currently viewed by management as overpaid. The same way they view the contractors who actually deliver their product. They are trying to cut the rate of pay to just above the point where a contractor would want to quit because it's not worth their time and effort. Here's a thought...reward your workers for the hard work they do and make them want to work for you. I know that won't happen so I've resolved to "make it through" the last few years I have to put in. Sad commentary on twenty five years of life.
The silver lining is that once I leave here, "my future's so bright, I gotta wear shades"!