Hello. My name is Leland, and I’m a poor quitter.
I’ve worked a string of abusive jobs, and stuck with them far longer than anyone should. My first full time job gave me exactly 4 days off per year; I worked there for eight years. The second is essentially a meat grinder that operates on the assumption that employees will be used up until they fail and then replaced. I worked there for seven years. A job that wants me to fold 18 hours of work into 8 hours of paid time in blatantly unsafe conditions is nothing new to me.
I once held hope for change at this workplace. When I was hired, the recruiter told me the company wanted my expertise because they were trying to move in a safer, more regulatory-compliant direction. I’ve since determined that was a lie. This company is mired in the past, built on an ethos of doing everything in the most half-assed way possible. And almost no one at the executive level wants that to change.
I’ve ridden out some massive upheavals in my short time here. In just two and half years, I’ve become the senior-most employee in my department– and that includes management. We can’t keep people: they die, they quit, and lately, thanks to myself and the rest of the new management team, they get fired. (The ones who were fired needed to go.)
And yet, for all the work we’ve put into making this place run, it feels like we’re getting nowhere.
The Futility Of It All
What we’ve achieved has come at the cost of a year-long knock-down, drag-out battle. We’ve forwarded mountains of evidence, passionately argued our case, and demonstrated how common-sense policies have benefited other companies– yet upper management still isn’t sold.
We’ve been saying for over a year that hiring needs to speed up to keep up with attrition and our continually growing workload. It wasn’t until mid-August, when we were being asked to load five or six heavy aircraft and a dozen small flights per day with a skeleton crew of less than ten people, that the company finally figured out how to remove the roadblocks in their own hiring process. And I suspect that breakthrough only came about because the lack of staffing was causing massive flight delays.
Now we’re in the unenviable position of trying to train a herd of new hires with nothing more than the five badly burned-out competent employees that remain– all while handling the same workload. It’s a recipe for disaster.
Meanwhile, the company still refuses to:
- PUBLISH A SCHEDULE AND STICK TO IT
The concept of scheduled flights, when you fly to a destination at the time and date you said you would (weather permitting,) is still a foreign one to my employer. Schedules are only issued, at most, twenty-four hours in advance. Between publication of the schedule and flight departure, the departure time, destination, aircraft to be loaded, and payload may change dozens of times. This is hell on anyone trying to prepare the freight to be loaded and build the load paperwork. Customers aren’t thrilled either.
- OBEY WAGE AND HOUR LAWS
I’m told that I worked over 320 hours during the month of June. (For comparison, four forty-hour work weeks is 160 hours.) July was a close second. Others worked even longer. This is while operating heavy machinery, lifting and moving freight that weighs up to ten thousand pounds, and loading aircraft worth millions of dollars. Most of us aren’t given time to take lunch breaks.
- PERFORM NECESSARY MAINTENANCE
Our equipment fails on a regular basis. Getting something as simple as a flat tire fixed requires several dozen phone calls and a visit to senior management. Aircraft routinely have critical mechanical failures on startup or during taxi. (And sometimes during flight– exciting!) We’re rolling into winter with 2-inch gaps under most of the warehouse doors and a heating system that can’t keep the office above 60F/15.5C in cold weather.
- REMOVE DISASTROUS INCOMPETENCE
What employer would retain employees who can’t read inventory labels, struggle with basic math, routinely damage freight, and frequently overcharge or undercharge customers (most recently to the tune of $7,000)? This one! We’ve managed to get rid of some of our problems, but the company seems determined to keep those that remain. Is incompetence a tax write off now?
- ENSURE WORKFORCE IS SUFFICIENT TO MEET WORKLOAD
If I had to describe the company’s attitude toward my department, it would be something along the lines of “attempted murder by strangulation.” How else would you describe choking off our supply of new hires (job postings removed, applicants kept on hold until they took jobs elsewhere, rejection of qualified applicants,) while piling on new routes, moving into new markets, selling more charter flights than ever, and refusing to provide training, authorize time off, or repair failing equipment? It has been voiced that it feels like they’re trying to crush us out of existence.
Rage and Resignation Feed the Seeds of Hope
We are a crew that is experiencing a truly epic level of burnout. We have been pulling double shifts, putting our health and personal lives at stake, and giving this job all we’ve got. And all without even a minimum level of support from the upper levels of the company or other departments.
My outlook at this point can be best described as “Fuck it, go ahead fire me!” I’ve given a lot of thought to quitting, and the only reason I haven’t left is that I can’t abandon my team. I trained these guys. When things go sideways or customers are screaming at us or senior management asks us to do something particularly heinous, I go to war for them.
Many of these guys have debt or families to support. They can’t afford to quit an abusive job without something else lined up, and lining up something else is highly difficult right now. When I go, I don’t want to leave them to deal with this without me. I want us to leave together– and losing the core of the department’s skill and experience is nothing less than this company deserves.
To that end, we have a plan. If all goes well, a mass exodus is coming.
Wish us luck.