Editor’s Pick
JANUARY 25, 2012 8:47AM

You say recession I say depression

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My story begins the fall of 1998 when I return to the workforce after taking a year off to spend time with my young family.  I needed to file for divorce and had to get a job.  It took all of 2 weeks to find a good paying job as a production supervisor in a Tier 1 automotive plant.  This plant supplied the Big 3 with convertible top assemblies. 

This is southern Michigan, rural farm land with a large manufacturing base. 

Shortly after I hired in, my plant began shifting operations to our sister plant in Toluca, Mexico.  Little by little our parent company milked us dry. We were a fairly recent acquisition for this enormous supplier of products used to create the “cockpit” in the cars we drive.  With manufacturing plants across 3 continents, their goals were selfish and shortsighted.  A few CEOs came and went, taking with them large multi-million dollar severance packages on their way out the door.  Soon we were known as the "launch plant" and once new programs were production ready, they were Mexico bound.  They filed for bankruptcy in 2004ish.  Through several headcount reductions in salaried workforce, I was lucky. I managed to hang on and ended up being the "last dog standing" in my department.  

I tried; man did I try, to influence the process.  My ability to motivate my employees to achieve record production goals I thought would make a difference in the long run.  On a regular basis, I'd march into the operation managers office and announce "How do ya like me now?!?  110% of goal!  Ha!"  Finally the plant manager pulled me aside, I think I was becoming tiresome to the big guy, and gently told me it didn't matter how good my team was, cause if we could do it, the Mexicans could do it cheaper.

It was strange really, for 3 years after filing bankruptcy, I still did not anticipate that I may be in for a long term struggle financially.  I shoulda been a cheerleader, happy go lucky dork that I am.   I worked so hard to keep my crew positive that it resulted in me not fully grasping our obvious and ultimate demise.  So my company lied, cheated and cooked the books to the point that 3 of the top managers turned state’s evidence on the current CEO and he was indicted for fraud and money laundering.  And that was mid 2007.

But land on my feet I did when 2 weeks before the doors closed I was offered a job as a contract supervisor at the Delphi plant directly across the street.  Sweet!  More money, oh yea so they are in bankruptcy too, but Mama's got a job and dinners on the table! 

Thud! The other shoe drops and 6 days before Christmas in 2007 they called me into the office to lay me off but guess what, get to finish the week.  Fabulous!  Hateful hostile work environment, major bunch of assholes.  F**king B*tch even wanted me to write up one of the job setters she had targeted, and I was still her sheriff till Friday.  (um, I refused to follow through, whatta ya gonna do, FIRE ME?)

The loss of my routine, a 60 hour work week that started as early as 2:45am when I rolled my ass outta bed, had a paralyzing effect on me.

 Early 2008, its winter in Michigan, ice, snow, me holed up in my remodeled 1876 country home doing my best to not FREEZE.  Depression sets in.  Remember I have a cheerleader personality; these things don't happen to me! There is no such thing as failure!  Hike your skirt up and run sister!   Fuck.

Oh, and the insurance of course was cut off immediately.   A trip to the SS office and I was able to qualify my son for Medicaid, but when she looked at my hard earned little portfolio, she said, “My you have done well for yourself, you don’t qualify.”   

With one child now in college and one high school, I slide into a bit of a depressed state, gained a few pounds, now chubby, broke and depressed.  I bum around looking for work, turns out I need a degree now to be a supervisor, don’t gots one.  Oh and can’t fail to mention the 20% unemployment rate in my county (no not Detroit, that was worse, or check out the stats on Flint)

So I did what any normal person would do and got my real estate license in an incredibly down market, sold my mom’s 37 acre farm, gave my home back to the bank after a failed short sale, packed all my worldly belongings, (and those of my then 79 year old mom’s vast accumulation of worldly belongs, some of which she still cannot find, shhhhh)  onto a 54 foot trailer and had 3 farm boys drive it out to Kansas!  (I had an epiphany, what can I say).

Bottom line, I’m happy, the plan, while always in transition, has borne fruit.  And my economy will not be controlled by this economy, ‘cause its fucked. 

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My favorite part is the failure CEO's that get the bonuses.
Never could figure that one out!
The economy of greed and blood lust has
not been kind has it.. Great post
Good post. These unemployment pieces are hard to read, but good for us, I think. They bring the problem to the forefront, put a human face on it, and show the inequity of it all. I'm sorry you had to uproot and go through this, but I'm glad that you found a new spot and are happy. That cheerleader in you probably helped.
Your cheerleader personality definitely came through on this one. Rough times but you made it through and sound like it will take wa-a-a-ay more than that to keep you down. So, what's up in Kansas?
I'm not the cheerleader type. I just want to shoot people. I figure if I can get rid of enough of them I can get control of my life back. Plus, on a percentage basis, just knocking off all the CEOs will no doubt make the world a better place!
Love that last line immensely:
"my economy will not be controlled by this economy,
‘cause its fucked. " You bring up an intriguing idea: how
many people these days are re-inventing their very identities.
There cannot be a greater existential terror than losing all
the adjectives that describe one; well...not all..still a cheerleader,
always a mom...
Sadly, I've heard too many variations of this story. My father and mother worked for the same companies all their lives. Nobody can do that anymore. I've had three main employers in my life. The first packed up and moved someplace where labor was cheaper. The other two, I left right before mergers and contractions were going to eliminate my jobs.

BTW, there was a lengthy story in the NY Times about how Apple has sent a lot of its jobs overseas too. America, land of opportunity ... to collect unemployment.
Excellent post! And your last line is priceless. Good on you!
Great post about the realities out there. I am on the edge every day when I read stuff like this. So wrong. So wrong. How to fix it. Really how to? There will be riots someday, I am pretty certain.
I give you a standing ovation for your fortitude and your attitude, as well as for sharing your story so eloquently. Not everyone would be able to do what you did or land on their feet. Your story shines a harsh light on this dismal economy and how it was created. And it was largely created, by companies like the ones you worked for, companies run by CEOs who value the bottom line over employees to the exclusion of everything else. They're the reason America's economy is being run into the ground. Layoffs are always the first line of defense against sinking profits; no reason to look for creative solutions or to work smarter when big windfalls for those in charge are the reward.

Mitt Romney would be a good person to ask about the corporate attitude of contempt toward employees; his stint at Bain with its mantra of "creative destruction" helped herd thousands of people to unemployment lines and put them in situations just like yours.
Wow! Thank you all so very much for your comments. (I'm a bit stunned, truth be told!) But I'm at work and cannot give much in the way of responses. I will catch up this evening when I'm free. Blessings to all!

Kiss up!

HAHAHAHA... blog cherry breaking EP!!!
I accuse you of rank plagarism -- this is my life!!
Reinvention, indeed.

Excellent post.
It's getting really spooky.
We're hanging onto our 28 ft. trailer just in case.
@ trig - thanks for turning me on to OS!

@jlsathre - plant closings have become far too common place. So many struggling. This is a time when we have to turn to family and our own sense of survival, but survive we do. I am blessed, I pulled it off, but do live paycheck to paycheck at age 50, which is pretty sad.

@ phyllis45 - I have family here. My sister and some other extended family all live with a few miles of us. Yes attitude is everything, isn't it?

@ Harry- what ever works dude! Just don't get caught!
Oh, your mother's farm! I'm so sorry about that. Well, about everything else, too, but that one hurts. Now how the hell did you get hooked up with our Tr ig?

Oh, and welcome!
James - thank you! yes breaking the paradigm is necessary. And scary as hell!

Cranky - This isn't over, I don't know how it can be repaired only how it can get worse.

Unbreakable - thank you!

Sheila - riots for sure!

Margaret - Landing on your feet, or the ability to get back up after a faceplant, is tough but we all do it in various areas of our lives. The never quit attitude is probably a nature/nurture thing for me. "Do something even if its wrong" was a often heard phase growing up. I has served me well, but seriously, so many have endured so much more. I am lucky and blessed! Employees in the manufacturing sector are pushed and pushed hard to produce, its brutal.
Daisy Jane - ok, yes I left that part out, its an entire blog! Well, initially I went through all of my expenses and eliminated everything non-essential, like cable. I've always been a good money manager so that helped. But still, my mortgage payment was 70% of my unemployment check, so groceries, utilities, everything, yea well over whelming. I had savings and it seemed that everytime I was close to going under something would come through for me. My Dad gave me some matured CDs, my sister sent money, etc... I did end up losing my house and it sold as an REO property for 35% of its appraised value. Messed up right? Cried over that one, me the girl with a 800+ credit score now a foreclosure on my "record" I thought they would haul me away! Bottom line, I scraped and scrounged and leaned on family. My move here was paid for by proceeds from the sale of my mom's farm, btw, my mom and I have lived together for 2.5 years, she is 81 now and needs me, so it works. Not that it wasn't a HUGE adjustment for this single independent woman! Well, that's the gist of it!
Tom - I was the fly on the wall...

Connie - Thank you, yes. Reinvention, a requirement for survival I believe.

Good Daughter - Trig? there's another blog my dear!
That must have really hurt to have to give your old house back to the bank. Did you ever have Michael Moore sightings? I recently read his book about growing up in Flint, and he really gives the reader a good feel for the setting.

Congratulations on your EP! Congratulations (I think) on dating
tr ig. :-)
Your determination comes through everywhere in this well written piece. Grew up in Michigan (Detroit) and visited there at least annually until 2009. Most of my childhood friends’ parents were union members and the quality of life was good for all. But things changed – oh how they changed. Your story represents it well.

I still have a special fondness for all the cool places in Michigan – it’s an incredibly large and diverse state. Memories of the gently rolling farms in the south, the incredible coastline and lakes, Motown, and the Yoop evoke smiles for me.

So what was the epiphany and why Kansas? Good to hear that you are making it today. Welcome to OS.
Love your moxie, asia. When I was going through my version of your story, for once, my workaholic tendencies paid off and I spent 18 solid months badgering my bank until they accepted a short sale that I managed myself. Otherwise, I might have succumb to depression myself and that would have been a disaster.

Welcome to OS!

Great post. My brother is a plumber who does plumbing construction. He's been out of a job for two years. Something hopeful on the horizon for him, fingers and toes crossed. I'm glad things are working out for you! Congrats on the EP -- you earned it!
Hi Green Heron, no Michelle Moore sightings! But I remember Roger & Me when it came out. Flint is a rough town, was then, worse now. And Thank you, (for both)
Well im glad someone's happy.
Grif! Love Michigan! I have tons of family in the Traverse Bay area, so beautiful up north. As a child I spent summers in a cabin on Traverse Bay, a log cabin my Grandpa built. Back in the day the road was nothing more than a two track with grass growing up in the center of it. Mosquito heaven it was, had to run to the water as they wouldn't follow you past the trees!

The epiphany- one day driving home December of 2008 it just struck me that what I needed to do was sell my house and my mom's and buy one together. Chose Kansas because my sister lives here and we all wanted to be closer.
Helvetica- 'gander girl! Love that!
Seer - Thank you! Yes, the story is all too common and sadly relatable.
[r] Congrats on EP but EP is small potatoes considering what Norma Rae moments you have made it thru. Congrats for that! Keep on keeping on! best, libby
Lezlie - Thank you. Yes my short sale lasted about 5 months, since I was leaving town, I hired a short sale expert, but had to stop making payments on my house after I moved so after the sheriff sale the Fannie Mae investor cancelled the sale, and Bank of America to boot, every realtors short sale nightmare it seemed. But either way the house had to go, cest la vie right?

Firechick - that is understandable that your brother is out of work, no building! This should start to come back soon, hopefully...

Apache Savage - well, sometimes its just a state of mind, even if you have to talk yourself into it!
I have a hell day today but I promise to come back later and read your first post and EP ( well crap) so I have time to really read and not pretend I read you. Be back soon...
Libby- Norma Rae moments? Thank you! We never know how deep our resolve runs until we are tested, right?

Lunchlady - I'll catch ya later then!
Welcome to Kansas! Also, thanks for humiliating Trog by getting an EP on your first post!
I told you I would be back and I am so glad I did. I wish I had the guts you do to just up and go and maybe if I didn't have a job I love I would. I hate that you, that so many like you, thought they could make a difference that what we do matters. I don't believe it does anymore and I am happy to read you made it out.
nana - Glad to be here! It was pretty sweet, the EP thing, but Trog is far too humble to be humiliated.

Lunch Lady! Howdy! Last night I put a link on my facebook page and a few of my previous employees commented thanking me for always being positive and how it helped them during such a rough time to . I cried. I thought I had resolved all these old demons but this exercise has shown me otherwise.
That's right. I AM HUMBLE!!
And can't tell you how excited I am for you that
this blog is recognized and put on the OS cover.
It's a butterfly stomach moment when you press
PUBLISH the first time isn't it!
If you play your cards right you have a chance to
steer clear of the black list, where you will find me
right at the top, just below tinkerertink69...
Emily, I lubs you!!!
I hate that these things happen with such regularity. I appreciate your take and your upbeat nature. It's always interesting to me to find out how others deal with the same situation I have faced and am again facing -- unemployed, not in demand, coming up with another Plan B.

Good stuff here. These companies made a mistake in hiring someone who could have the balls to write about it.

You can just say you left and that you were fed up with working too many hours, in fact more hours, so that top management could skin and minimize more in order to justify their salaries.

As I've seen in so many posts before, the gap between those at top and those producing the work that allows those to stay on top is widening.

Do you think the big exec's were getting up at 2:00AM because they wanted to do the right thing and valued their work ethic? Why is that?

well done.
Great post. Your voice manages to be one tough cheerleader. Welcome and congratulations; I'm looking forward to more.
Isn't it funny that the CEO jobs can't be done cheaper in Mexico or India? I am sure there are clever people there who could do the same thing for a couple million less.

There was an interesting story on forbes.com about German auto companies building twice as many cars as the US, while paying their workers twice as much. And they're making a profit!

People in power make short-term gains by turning the US into a third-world country. A resource mine and a place to dump goods.

All the best for your new Kansas life!
I think what we're going to have to do more and more is as your last sentence says - have our own economy or economies that are, as far as possible, independent of the Large Economy, which doesn't work for us.
dunniteowl - Reinventing is tough and I hope your plan B is a huge success. Good luck in the job search.
Andrew - thanks, I gots big ones some days! Oh yea, working a ton of hours when your on salary and its capped and your threatened if you say your not working over 55 hours (the cap), they don't like it much. Don't miss that at all. Driving into work for a 4:am start up and a pit in your stomach, don't miss that either. I never would have quit without something as good or better to go to, not possible for a single income single parent. I liked my job, liked my folks, have no use for the wind bag CEOs.

Laura - Thank you! This is fun, I hope to contribute from time to time and I enjoy the challenge of writing, something I haven't done much since high school.

Helmsinepu- I definitely second that! Not sure how this country with such its vast resources in brains has to sucumb to such mediocicy. Hope I spelled that right...

Myriad - you got it. Control what you can and take the bull by the horns. Atleast if you fail, you gave it your best shot.
You are one resilient woman! I applaud your attitude and drive. And yes, the economy is done broke and ain't gonna be fixed anytime soon.
Dear Asia, I'm glad you had the resources, moxie and motivation to pull your life together, uproot and move to Kansas. When my husband and I lived in Detroit, it was already a sad place. Block after block of empty houses, and there would be fires on Devils Night, burning them to the ground. Now it seems that was a forewarning for the rest of the country, because so many cities look just like Detroit, the big hanging fist of Joe Lewis downtown notwithstanding.
tr ig sent me here. I have no intelligent words for my reaction to this post. I would scream, but I don't want to frighten the dog. I admire your gumption. You're the kind of person who created America in the first place. That it ended up as it has is mind-boggling. I'm glad to know some people still know how to build a life raft on their own. My best wishes for your new life in Kansas.
Erica, its good when a plan comes together, it could have gone, um, less well at so many different points in the time line!

ccdarling, Detroit is a broken city. Empty buildings, houses and businesses. We have to start over, fixing what we have would be impossible.

Mumbletypeg, not sure if I think of myself that way, just another survivor maybe. Thank you for stopping by.
Excellent attitude to self made wealth. Keep a few months living expenses in your back pocket (figuratively speaking) for the down times and go kick anus.

"Press send please FRed(tm)."
Great story! It's amazing how long it takes for the lightbulb to come on for some of us...
Though the story is somewhat sad (you are a survivor), I love your writing, especially the "don't gots one." I don't got a degree either, but I have had steady employment for the last 6 years without any kind of pay raise in that time period and none in the foreseeable future, all while they educate software to do my job without me. But I guess I should be grateful for my job no matter how shitty the pay. My hope is like yours, shed everything and move to BFE, and hope my kids do better than I have. Good for you for your positive outlook.
hey, just arrived here at OS. thanks for writing this. I'm glad to hear you've landed. I will soon.:-)
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