Tag Archives: Unemployment

The Ethical Layoff

layoffs 3

How are the chosen ones chosen? Who gets to stay and who is set free to the churning waters and capricious winds of change? I’ve asked those in the hiring position to write about their experience, but I’ve had no takers. I want to insert something smart aleck about not having time between all that head chopping, but that’s not true. The folks I know who have been the ones to deliver the bad news, well it’s pretty traumatic for them too. They know they are changing the trajectory of someone’s life. They don’t sleep well after it’s all done either.

There was an article in the NY Times last week, “When Layoffs Are Immoral.” Randy Cohen, the author, brings up salient points about over-compensated execs, and “equitable methods” that should be tried before anyone is let go, he talks about hour reduction, company-wide pay cuts, etc. His argument is this; large companies must use their political clout to insure a proper safety net for those that have to be let go. That means, health benefits and unemployment benefits that are more substantial than the frayed safety net we operate now. To do anything less is unethical. Cohen gives examples of advanced democracies where this is practiced, health benefits are a given and laid off workers are able to receive 60 to 80 percent of their salary. Cohen notes that a CEO with a million dollar paycheck owes a more “humane management” to the folks who helped him earn it.

I agree with Mr. Cohen, the waters are shifting and I’m still afloat. My hope is that this administration will move us to a more ethical democracy, where the needs of many are considered and the culture of greed is finally dialed down.

Something spectacular is just around the bend…


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Filed under Recession

Blog O’ The Week — Faces of The Recession: A Portrait Series by Andy Cook



John Hawkins

John Hawkins




     Andy Cook is an accomplished photographer and was once employed by the Baltimore Jewish Times. After being laid off, he turned his well trained eye towards the recession and began snapping pictures and collecting stories of how ordinary Americans are weathering the current climate. Through his lens and his pen one gets a sense of the loss and resilience, the hope and fear that has become part of our daily conversations. What Andy has captured is the transformation this country is going through, frame by frame.



Andy Cook speaks:

     Like so many good ideas, it came to me in a bar.  I’d recently lost my job as a newspaper photographer, wasn’t having much luck freelancing, and was trying to figure out what to do next.  I had a little money saved up and decided that it was a good time to take a road trip. But I’m not the kind of person to travel without a project. 

     Everywhere I looked, there was more news about jobs being lost, businesses closing, and people losing their homes.  Most of this news came in the form of giant, abstract numbers that to my mind, lacked the tangibility of what me and so many other American’s were feeling.  I thought it’d be a good idea to add some personal stories to the discussion.

     So over four weeks in February and March, I drove around America trying to put a face on our downward-spiraling economy.  I visited ten cities and interviewed people everywhere I went to find out how they were handling their own personal economic hardships.  I photographed them all, and collected the stories and images on facesoftherecession.blogspot.com

     Everyone I met had a different story.  Some were worse off than others, but across the board they all faced serious challenges.  I came to realize too that every city was feeling it differently.  Fort Myers, Florida for instance had so many empty new houses it felt like a ghost town.  On the other hand, Madison, Wisconsin was bustling with new arrivals come to work for the growing health care industry there.  Here in Baltimore, Maryland, it’s the newspapers who’ve all had to lay people off, reduce page count, or close entirely because of the decline in ad revenues. 

     Now that I’ve returned home to Baltimore, I’m focusing on the stories here, but with an eye on hitting the road again in the near future.  This project is completely self-funded as of now, and I’m in the process of trying to pitch it to publications or foundations that have money for projects like this.  With any luck, I’d like to be working on the second installment this summer.  But of course with even more luck, there won’t be a recession to document by then! 

     Please take a moment to read some of the portraits on facesoftherecession.blogspot.com.  If you’d like to participate in the project, you can email me at unemployedportrait@gmail.com.


Filed under April

Someone’s Gotta Go — Perhaps This Show


Using my best Maxwell Smart voice when he’s talking to the Chief: 

Would you believe…

     There are t-shirts, coffee mugs and all kinds of kitsch related to the recession? Go on over to Zazzle and check out the wares. If there is a buck to be made off of anything, someone in America is going to do it. Now the boys and girls over at Fox have taken it to new heights, err I mean depths with their reality show, “Someone’s Gotta Go.” Take a small struggling company with say about 20 or so employees, give the employees access to the human resources records, performance reviews etc., then let the employees decide who goes next. Then watch as alliances are formed and broken and the backstabbing begins. Oh! What! Fun! And of course there will be a guest business whiz, who will probably say something like, “Jane your position has been terminated, you have been voted out of a job, go turn off your computer, gather your personal effects and leave immediately.”  He will hand her an eco-friendly bag and  a mug inscribed with “Party Like It’s 1929.” We will watch Jane pack her things while cheesy violin music plays to her teary voiceover goodbye. 

    I have a great idea for the next reality series Fox, just in case any of you read my little blog. It will bleed over, pardon my pun, into a new series if you get my drift. Have a camera crew follow the recently laid off employees and then see who will be the first to buy a gun, we can always direct them to a pawn shop or Wal-Mart no worries about a waiting period, and come back and commit murder-suicide! Oh the ratings will be through the roof Rupert. Ka-ching! Ka-ching!  Ka-ching!  Who’s in a recession now? Not Fox!  You have to admit, this is a freakin’ great idea!

    Seriously, nothing about this funny. People making a dress out of car parts, or a finding a creative way to make dinner out of quail eggs and rutabaga is entertaining, people losing their job in this economy just isn’t.

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Filed under April

Passion! Get it! Hold On To It!

I had another dream about lions at the door.

They weren’t half as frightening as they were before.

But I’m thinking about eternity.

Some kind of ecstasy got a hold on me

– Bruce Cockburn


     It has been 45 days since I was laid off. On February 3, the day I was released, the jobless rate in California was 10.5 per cent; new numbers will be released on April 17. I don’t expect the numbers to be any better. We are still shedding Hummers and houses, re-prioritizing what is important and learning to be efficient with less.

     45 days ago I was the same hopeful person that I am now, but struggling with passion, how to connect with it and how to sustain it, in spite of circumstance. And by circumstance I mean bitchy bosses, vengeful exes and fractured ankles, whatever pitch life decides to throw at you. I’ve learned it doesn’t matter.

     Good things come in three’s, connecting to and sustaining your passion is no different. 

   1. Think.

     There was a newscast that used to begin something like this, “From the mountains, to the desert and to the sea, to all of Southern California, good evening.” Pick your favorite and go there, physically or mentally. Do not answer the phone, do not take a laptop, just sit and listen to your thoughts. As they come, don’t judge them. Just let them be. Ask yourself, whom would you be if no one were watching? What would you do for free?

    2. Speak. Write.

       This is where resistance sneaks in. I’m not a writer, I don’t want to tell anyone, and I don’t have time. I’ve heard and said them all. It’s crap. Ignore it. This is important. Articulate the answer to that question. Write, rap it, poem it, paint it, collage it… you get the picture.

    3. Do.

     Be that person; be in that skin if even for but a moment. Try it out on new people that you meet. They have no idea who you were and will experience who you are. The you that is doing their passion. The people that know you might look at you strangely and nod in an annoying knowing way, but what they say and what they think don’t matter. Your passion matters, so do it. Everyday.

     This third step is the most important. It feels self-indulgent. Do it anyway.

     Something spectacular is just around the bend…

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Filed under March

Blog o’ the Week — Stuff Unemployed People Like

    I have a great sense of humor. I think George Carlin’s work is poetry.  Katt Williams  got me through the first initial weeks of unemployment, reminding me to look out for my “Star Player.” Lisa Lampanelli helps me get my chuckle on too, as does Adele Givens, Melanie Comarcho and the oh-so-blue Luenell. ROTFLMBAO!  

    So get your giggle on. Yes, in the midst of all this you need a laugh and you can start here with Stuff Unemployed People Like. This is a great take on the wildly popular Stuff White People Like. Go on… click it. 

     Something spectacular is just around the bend...

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Filed under March

The Continuous Cluck and Hum

What is the good of being a genius if you cannot use it as an excuse for being unemployed?  ~Gerald Barzan


     So these days are going to come, putting out feelers and feeling nothing. The cash register as it records the clink of dollars disappearing one by one. Hearing faith gasp for air because you refuse to loosen your grip. The needle of the gas tank sinking, the price of gas rising. The continuous cluck and hum of sorry from your friends and acquaintances, howszit going? Hmmm. Howszit going? Hmmm. Howszit going? Awww I’m so sorry. Hmmm. The furrowed brow. The unexpected gifts from folk who knew someone in a pinch just like you. The joy and gratefulness of knowing that someone cares brings. Your name etched on the prayer list of at least three ladies who fan and rock on Sunday at 11am service, chanted over by dreadlocked black Buddhists, lifted to the sun by the Red-Blacks who step and drum. And the chain letters that promise “your luck will change if you will just send this to 7 people within the next thirty minutes” that seem to multiply in your email inbox. Yes, those days will come.  

Hold on. Take a breath.

Something spectacular is just around the bend…

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Filed under March