This is a fictitious look at my Uncle Sammy who worked hard and played by the rules of his employer and the subsequent demise of his career.
By Dennis Page - Monday 05 Dec 2011
This is a fictitious examination of my Uncle Sammy’s career. He was the pillar of strength and financial stability to his family and a contributor, on many levels to his community, as a whole.
My Uncle Sammy had a stellar career working for the Freedom Mutual Insurance Company. A mutual company basically means it is owned by the policyholders. Uncle Sammy started in the mail room, fresh out of school. He worked hard, went to college at night and eventually started a progression of promotions. My uncle went to work early each day and stayed late each night and spent many Saturdays at the office. He was a team player and followed all of the company rules. Sammy felt secure with his employer and his employer viewed him as an asset and valued employee. Eventually he married, started a family, bought a new automobile, took family vacations and had a new home built. He was the epitome of a strong work ethic and company loyalty.
Freedom Mutual had infused a local economy by providing several hundred jobs. Restaurants, dry cleaners, department stores, clothing stores, specialty shops, grocery stores, real estate companies, car dealerships, gas stations, an excellent school system, the medical community and service stations all prospered and expanded because of a vibrant economy. The county, surrounding towns and villages operated with balanced budgets, while maintaining a first-rate infrastructure and top-notch police and fire services. Interestingly, the other anchor companies in Uncle Sammy’s area also treated their employees much like Freedom Mutual. Education, training and experience meant much more than words. Workers were valued and in order to retain their prized people, companies offered up a smorgasbord of incentives, cost of living increases, merit based promotions, employee associations, company sponsored educational assistance, low cost health insurance and just as importantly, company associates were treated with dignity and respect.
The crevasse in the glacier was forming. It split the area in half. The moral compass of fairness was broken. North was south and east became west as equality began to spin out of control. The climate of seeing wage earners as colleagues became clouded in a smog of industrial, deregulated passionate gluttony. Subordinates of a company were no longer observed as individuals. Now they were wage slaves and the corporations were reborn, with supreme assistance, as people.
Uncle Sammy watched helplessly as Freedom Mutual, looking for instant monetary gratification, changed to a stock company and before long Freedom Mutual was taken over by a foreign insurance company and it no longer existed. Experience, training and education didn’t mean what it used to. The seasoned, well paid worker bees were let go and the outsourcing of services commenced. Sadly, the same atmosphere of a nor'easter blew through the entire business environment and an ice age of stagnation for the masses had set in. Yet, on top of every ice berg floating in the frigid business climate, thermal blankets of astronomical proportions were spread out to warm the surface for the construction of ice castles which housed the barons, thereby giving them superior scenery of the Inuit working class below.
My Uncle Sammy doesn’t work for the insurance company anymore. They laid him off. He also doesn’t have a new car or even a house. They are all gone and now my poor uncle….the man who played by the rules and who worked long, arduous, days and hours, was still working the same way. The difference is he did it with two minimum wage jobs, no benefits, no health insurance, no paid vacations and no acknowledgement of respect for who he was as an employee. I’ve lost my Uncle Sammy. The great divide turned him into a broke and broken man.
With the furloughs of thousands, not just from the insurance company, but also from manufacturing companies and other corporations, the county, towns and villages started to implode. The onset of home foreclosures and a shrinking labor force brought with it a heterogeneous collection of doom and gloom problems. Mom and pop businesses shuttered their doors and windows. Teachers lost jobs as schools closed. Roads were left in disrepair, bridges deemed unsafe to cross, parks closed, health insurance coverage became unaffordable, taxes kept rising, police and fire departments saw major cuts in staff, food prices continued to soar as a blizzard of company and corporate overindulgence swirled around the rest of us offering zero visibility of hope for the future.
The people (corporations) claim there is class warfare occurring. They are absolutely correct in that statement. The class warfare and income discrepancies were perpetrated upon the real people and it is time the people stood up to the mega-conglomerates and take back our jobs, our country, close the gap between rich, poor and middle class and more importantly, regain our dignity. How did we let this happen?
Oh, and my Uncle Sammy? Well, as I mentioned, he was a broke and broken man and he didn’t have medical insurance anymore, so death was imminent. Upon learning of his fate the audience cheered during a Republican debate and it sickened me. I’m not part of the 1%-2% who are satisfied with our current socioeconomic affairs…are you? If you are, then all I can say is “Rest in peace Uncle Sammy, because our country is lost to the corporate people and it is time to light the candles at the altar of bygone decency and fairness in the workplace.”