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December 05, 2022

Notes From the Office 11: Sign of the Times

By Bernie Pilarski

Remember the scenes in Star Trek where the Enterprise was hurtling at incredible speed down through the atmosphere of some planet, and the hull was beginning to glow red, the crew was being bounced from wall to wall, the warning lights were flashing, and there was that characteristic whooping sound that meant "red alert?" Spock would be hanging onto that thing he always looked into and would say "Forward shields are gone, Captain. Hull breach in sections three through eight." Steam would inexplicably burst from the panels in front of some unknown crew member, knocking him to the ground. "Sick Bay, medical emergency on the bridge," Kirk would shout into the arm of his chair. "I'm a Dahc-tor, Jim, not a meat packer. Sick Bay is already overflowing with casualties." "Captain," Scotty would shout. "She can't take anymore. We're breaking up!" Remember those scenes?

Two more years of Bush.

Just two unrelated, random thoughts on a cold January night in 2007.

Happy New Year everyone. And good luck.

The above is an excerpt from a Birds of Ripon article that ran in The Piker Press on January 8, 2007. I bring this up just in case in any of the interviews with outgoing Bush administration officials one of them happens to say "Well, you know, nobody could see this coming." If and when that happens, you have my permission to use the above text in any blog entry, forum post, or email in which you want to express your extreme appreciation for a job well done.

In another totally unrelated item, I have found myself engaged in a curious activity, one which I have never before had occasion to do. As part of my daily routine of web surfing the news, I have added one more stop along the way -- the California listing of WARN Notices. WARN (Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification) is a federally mandated program that requires employers to give affected employees and other state and local representatives notice 60 days in advance of a plant closing or mass layoff. The notices are compiled by the appropriate state agency, in the case of California, the EDD, Employment Development Department, and accessible on line .

I work in an auto assembly plant. The good news is that we make Toyotas, and Toyota is one of the least effected companies so far. The bad news is that car sales in general are down almost forty percent across the board, so even those of us who are the lucky ones are on crutches with a cast on one leg, a patch over one eye and our head wrapped in bandages. The other good news is that we build Corollas, one of the best selling cars in the world. The bad news is that we are not the only plant that makes Corollas, and as has been pointed out to us on many occasions, we are the only unionized Toyota plant in North America, and we are in California which is a very expensive place to do business, so we are indeed the high cost producers of Corollas.

There is an ever increasing target on our backsides.

Of course the rumors have been flying. Every day, I walk into the plant and someone has some shocking bit of news -- most of it wrong. Yet I am surprised with how deflated and worried I can become when I hear that Toyota's pulling out and the plant is closing, or that there's going to be a big layoff and everyone with thirteen years seniority or less is gone.

So I get up in the morning, say my prayers, check the BBC News to make sure we haven't blown ourselves off the planet overnight, and then I check out the WARN notices. If there is no listing for my company, I know I've got at least 61 more days ... no matter what I hear when I walk into the plant.

There was no listing again today, which means that I'll make it past February 24th.

The crystal ball is a little hazy about what the New Year will bring, but it is my sincere hope that all of the Piker Press community will find a way to keep ourselves intact safe and whole, and that we will all retain our sense of humor.

Happy New Year everyone. And good luck.

P.S. You can get to the WARN listings for your state simply by googling "Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification" plus your states name.

Article © Bernie Pilarski. All rights reserved.
Published on 2008-12-29
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