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Covering a 23% pay cut

Categories: Career, The Juggle, Working? Living?


Starting Sunday I’ll be earning 23 percent less for doing the same amount of work at the office. Twenty-three percent less for doing more work, really, given the economy and the fact that “do more with less” isn’t just a catch phrases on this column.

Unfortunately, my mortgage, household expenses, bills, daycare fees, school tuitions, and health insurance costs aren’t going down by 23 percent. Gas isn’t going to start costing 23 percent less on Sunday, and my commute isn’t going to be 23 percent shorter. And since my husband works for the same company, his paycheck is being slashed by 23 percent, too.

And I am angry.

I can accept the fact that my industry is a morphing, possibly dying, beast, and that changes need to be made in order to survive. Let’s face it: In the great media race, most of the competition is zipping around the track in Smart Cars and newspapers are lumbering along in Mack trucks.

But the part I’m having a hard time accepting is the fact that 40 percent of the union to which I belong voted for a smaller paycut plus a package of (yes, fairly painful) concessions, and 40 percent plus 12 people voted to “stick it to the man” by taking a 23 percent paycut without the concessions. Which means that the 40-percent-plus-12 group chose for the rest of us.

(Twenty percent of the union didn’t bother to cast a ballot at all, which infuriates me the most. Really… if your fate and the future of the company isn’t worth hauling yourself into the building to vote upon, maybe you should be the first to go.)

Now, I know that, in spite of the reeling feeling I’ve got going right now, I’m actually one of the lucky ones. The US auto industry’s predicament makes print journalism look downright rosy, and companies of all sizes are shedding jobs, not just cutting pay.

I’m sure I’ll figure out a way to feel more grateful for what I still have, but right now, I need to figure out how to cut back┬ásome more, even though I’ve been slowly cutting back for ages. In terms of my already complicated work-life juggle, I feel like┬ámy company just tossed me a white-hot anvil.

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14 comments so far...

  • Oh, I would be STEAMED. I could accept taking a cut in pay for LESS WORK, such as forced furloughs or something. But there is no way I would do the same or more work for a quarter less pay. Nope. Nuh-uh. Bzzzzt. Wrong.

    Robyn  |  June 11th, 2009 at 1:03 pm

  • I’m sorry this happened to you and is happening to many, many people. I understand the shock and disappointment. But at least people are negotiating to hopefully keep the jobs in existence. I’d take a 23% cut over a 50% or 100% cut in my income, I think.

    Sounds like the union vote was democratic, and I guess that’s how it should be - or do you not think so? I admit that in any democratic vote (the recent Pres election comes to mind) you can have a large number of people whose votes are based more on emotions and false information than on the factual issues, and this is unfortunate. But still, isn’t it better than one figurehead (not likely to be the little guy) making a unilateral decision for everyone?

    I’m in a very different situation but it still sucks. My business has investments in low-income communities which are losing money. Our choices are to pump more money in to keep them open, or let them die so these troubled neighborhoods will be hit even harder than they already are. So we reinvest our profits to keep the doors open, to keep the jobs in existence, to keep the storefronts from going back to the eyesores that they were before we invested. Meanwhile (since these investments are not tax-deductible), my personal tax bill exceeds my non-reinvested earnings - so Uncle Sam is dipping into my savings. The thing that bugs me is that those in charge of the government think my taxes aren’t high enough yet. So yeah, the economy is beating everyone up, even those of us who don’t have “someone else” telling us what we can earn. Let’s hope it gets better before too much damage is done.

    SKL  |  June 11th, 2009 at 1:30 pm

  • Robyn: I’m definitely struggling with that.

    SKL: Thanks for the perspective. I’m trying to remember that — see the second to last graph of the post — but it’s so fresh that I have to admit my more immediate thoughts are along the lines of “How am I going to pay the bills?” Yes, it was democratic, but there was quite a bit of misinformation floated during the month leading up to the vote, and while I don’t think people feel disenfranchised, they certainly do feel betrayed…

    Lylah  |  June 11th, 2009 at 1:36 pm

  • Is there any talk of the editorial employees decertifying the union? Clearly, you all don’t have the same interests as some dinosaur in the business departments whose job has been / should be largely displaced by technology. They cared about their lifetime employment guarantees; you care about making ends meet and having the Globe remain a viable enterprise.

    Ed Poon  |  June 11th, 2009 at 4:56 pm

  • I heard about the union vote yesterday on ‘FNX during my morning commute. I wasn’t surprised at the logic behind it, nor was I surprised that a large chunk of people didn’t, in fact, vote. But I was angry for the majority. I don’t have any close friends who work for your company, but any time a union body makes a decision like that, my heart goes out to the rest of the members that it affects, such as yourself. And I did wonder about you.

    I wish I could say something sage and wise, but I can’t. I can, however, think of you and hope that you and your family make it through this…and if I can think of any money saving tips I think would actually benefit you, I’ll pass them along.

    My heart and best to you.

    Phe  |  June 11th, 2009 at 9:41 pm

  • the 23% cut is awful and i don’t know how any member will afofrd it. this was handled badly by both sides, and while we can thrash guild leadeership (and should) shouldn’t we have expected better form the supposedly smart people who run the times?

    but still, on the vote?
    40% +12 = deomcracy. ain’t that a bitch.

    yeah, but  |  June 12th, 2009 at 10:02 am

  • Ed: You’re analysis is right on target… I don’t know if the union *can* be split like that (and, if it could, it would take time, so it wouldn’t change anything right away), but I think it *should* be.

    Phe: Thanks, Phe! I appreciate that so much!

    Yeah, but: Indeed. On the Times comment and the Democracy one.

    Lylah  |  June 12th, 2009 at 10:55 am

  • Lylah, this may not make you feel better, but after reading your post, I counted 7 couples I know in which one spouse has been laid off, so you and your husband are actually “ahead” of some in that respect (with a pay cut vs. a full layoff). These couples are paying their own health insurance, which is almost a bigger blow than the loss of income, and one couple has twins in college.

    I also have a single mom friend out of work struggling to stay afloat, and a single male friend who supports his elderly parents (pays their mortgage) and he can’t find work.

    I know this doesn’t make your situation any more pleasant, but there are many, many people suffering out there and for ALL of our sakes, we need to hope Obama’s economic plans succeed.

    Jeannie  |  June 12th, 2009 at 11:22 am

  • Jeanne: Thanks for your comment. I know I’m still among the lucky ones — I even said so in the second-to-last paragraph. And my heart goes out to people who are in even worse situations (and there are plenty, unfortunately). The crux of this particular post is that this just happened, and I’m trying to deal with the immediate impact it will have on my household, especially my kids. I’m sure there are many other people who are facing things like this and worse.

    Lylah  |  June 12th, 2009 at 11:46 am

  • My heart goes out to you and your husband. Very tough times for many many people these days.

    It seems to me that the vote points out a problem with unions — having one results in a “one size fits all” contract. I’m glad software engineering isn’t unionized — it means there are options out there to work as a contractor for more money but no benefits, as an employee with less money but more benefits and a career ladder, or to negotiate (if you can find a willing employer) for part-time hours.

    SoftwareMom  |  June 12th, 2009 at 5:21 pm

  • Lylah, I’m sorry that you had to take a pay cut. I enjoy reading your columns, and think you are one of the better “ones”.

    I know you’re just trying to process a difficult turn of events, but your post sounds a lot like whining. Think of it this way - you had the opportunity to have a say in how the issue would be resolved. Most people never have that chance - they just get the pay cut or pink slip. Of course you are disappointed that the vote didn’t go the way you had hoped, and angry that there was such a large group who never bothered to cast their vote at all (which is small compared to the rate of apathy in your average political election), but please don’t whine. It’s unappealing and not productive.

    a mom  |  June 15th, 2009 at 9:37 am

  • Hi Lylah,
    I am wondering if you might be available to speak with us on camera about the situation at the Globe?
    Thanks in advance for the consideration,

    Peter  |  June 15th, 2009 at 1:03 pm

  • Hi Lylah,
    . I’m a police officer here in Massachusetts, and as of July 1 I’ll be potentially taking a 25% pay cut. I have a Master’s Degree, and eliminating or underfunding the “lucrative” Quinn Bill will cause my pay to be cut up to a quarter as well.. Replacing “lucrative police road details” with flagmen will prohibit me from woking on my time off to try to make up some of my loss. By the way, did you see the recent State Contracts for road projects where the construction companies who submitted bids for projects are billing an average of $50. an hour for flaggers? I was making $34. per hour to do the same job. You folks were sold a bill of goods on this story and you bought it hook, line and sinker.
    Your brethren at the Globe beat the “wasteful Quinn Bill” and “lucrative Police Deatails” drum for months if not years with no concern for the financial impact this would have on us, or our families. We weren’t even given the opportunity to vote on concessions.
    Guess you’ll have to make do. Just like I will.
    Allow me my sense of Schadenfreude.

    sdb  |  June 19th, 2009 at 12:12 pm

  • software mom: Yes, I think you’re right about the problem with unions illustrated by this vote. Thanks for weighing in!

    a mom: I appreciate your taking time to leave a comment. Thanks.

    peter: Have emailed you. Thank you for reading.

    sdb: I hear your anger, and sympathise with what you’re going through. Enjoy the sense of Schadenfreude, if it makes you feel better. Not sure it will in the long run, but there you go.

    Lylah  |  June 19th, 2009 at 12:16 pm