Monday, October 3, 2011

We don't do raises anymore

Here's a universal truth about labor: if you're not in management the economy is always bad.

I've been around the working world long enough to see several economic cycles. The recession of the early 90's was followed by the boon of the era. President Clinton even managed to erase the deficit and, in addition to a Smithsonian-worthy blue dress, he produced a budget surplus.

The early 2000's saw the economy go in the shitter again. And again, it rose from the ashes. With unemployment levels hovering around 5%.

The current recession, which started in 2008 shows no sign of relenting. And management hopes it never does. Because with unemployment high and headlines of fiscal doom choking our newspapers, they have everything they need to cart out the old, "we're in belt-tightening mode."

But can anybody remember or tell me when their employer wasn't in "belt-tightening mode"?
Like god-awful rap music it seems like it's here to stay.

Years ago during one of the boon times, I held a pretty senior position with one of the big holding companies, I'll leave them unnamed because occasionally I still feed at their trough. I was Senior VP of whoseywhatsits. It was impressive for about half a second. I remember telling my mother about my new title. She yawned over the phone. And pressed on with her more riveting story about winning $600 at Bingo that week.

Having served faithfully for more than 20 months under this burdensome title and won two National Effies for my efforts, I approached my boss with the notion of a bonus and a pay raise. The idea was floated back to the NY mothership and summarily rejected within 48 hours.

"We don't have the money," I was told with a straight face.

One week later, Adweek spelled out the details of a proposed bonus package under consideration for the CEO of that same unnamed holding company. For holding the line on costs and eliminating redundant employees, he was handed a check for $120 million.

Now $120 million is just a pittance compared to the bonuses brought home by the boys at Goldman Sachs.
But it's still $120 million.

I was hoping for a simple 5% bump. In other words, a relatively tiny pittance of his pittance.

There's a great Yiddish saying that sums all this up:
Don't pee on my back and tell me it's raining.

1 comment:

george tannenbaum said...

The other variant of "pay freezes" within holding companies is this: if you're at a hot agency in a cold holding company, you're screwed because the holding company did bad. If you're at a cold agency in a hot holding company, you're screwed because your agency did bad.

I often think about this sort of phenomenon with American politics. If republicans are in, you're screwed because you're poor. And if democrats are in, you're screwed because you're rich.