USG Corp, YOU Should be “Occupied!” Shame On You!

USG Corp.  In case anyone doesn’t know what USG stands for it stands for United States Gypsum.  Guess what UNITED STATES Gypsum is doing?

This company, with UNITED STATES in its name, is shutting down all its financial hubs and OUTSOURCING all the accounts payable jobs as well as IT jobs.

I found this out today from a friend who will be affected by this.  In her office, which will be open (for some employees) through April (gotta get that year end closing done!) the following people will be so adversely affected by this that it may destroy them, financially:

A  54 year old woman with a husband on disability who has worked there for the past 8-9 years.

A 53 year old woman who has worked there for most of her adult life.

A 44 year old woman who is a single mom of two, who currently can’t make ends meet on the salary they pay her,  lives in subsidized housing and has been known to get food for herself and her kids from the local food pantry and who has a child with ongoing healthcare needs.

Today I was told that the employees were called into a meeting where they were told the office would be closing, as would all the financial hubs and then it was explained to them that their jobs would eventually be “outsourced.”  We’ll get to that in a bit.  Here’s the icing on the cake:   There will be a “stay” package given to certain employees so that they can keep their jobs through the closing of the hub.  When the director was asked how it will be determined who will get a “stay” package the reply that was given was this:

“I’m  not going to think about that until I have to.”

Excuse me?  WTF??  This is corporate America.  They have ALREADY chosen who will get the “stay” package and if it were legal to do so, I’d list the names here.  I know who will get it.  I know, because I worked in that office and I know the politics of it. I know the favoritism that goes on and I know how terribly ineffective the current director is.  He’s a nice enough guy, but a truly bad manager.

The employees were told that they would all get “severance” packages but when the local HR representative was questioned as to what those packages would be, he did what ALL good little corporate HR minions do:  He hedged and said “we’re not sure yet.”  Of COURSE they’re sure.  They’ve known for months they were going to do this, and if it wasn’t known at mid-level it has certainly been in the works at the top levels.

Now, let’s talk about the piece that chaps my other butt cheek.  “Outsourcing.”

Okay, as a rule, in America, when someone hears “outsource” they think of India, Mexico, or the Philippines.  So when the question was asked where the jobs would be outsourced, the answer was, again, in good minion-like fashion:  “We haven’t determined that yet.  We’re exploring several different sources.”  Or something like that.  I put it in quotes, but I got it second-hand.  I wasn’t actually in the meeting.

It’s possible that with the accounting portion of it, the term “outsource” means they will funnel the work to an American company that provides contract labor, either in a call center-type environment, or it will be sourced to telecommuting temporary/contract employees.  It could also mean that all accounting personnel will be laid off, the work will all go to Chicago and temps will be hired to do it, at a very low rate of pay and with no benefits.

OR, it could mean they will send it all out of our country, this company with UNITED STATES in its name, will add to our already failing economy by stealing jobs from Americans and giving them to people in other countries because they’ll work for so much less money.  That will ensure that Bill Foote and his minions continue receiving their “competitive compensation” packages. (see below)

UNITED STATES GYPSUM, I ask you this:

How many at your executive level even considered taking a pay cut or giving up returns on options so that a single mom with two kids, a woman whose husband is on disability and a woman who has given most of her adult life to YOU can keep their jobs, their sanity, their homes, their kids in braces, food on their tables, their health insurance, their car insurance?  How many of you even gave a single thought to what this would do to those who truly NEED every paltry penny you’ve paid them?

I know how paltry those pennies are, because I used to work for you.  I know that you barely pay a living wage in the city within which I live.

This is from an article written in 2007, as USG was recovering from their “asbestos” issue which sent them into Chapter 11.  Here’s the link so you can read the entire thing, but this gem truly astounded me, since the company was emerging from Chapter 11 bankruptcy (how many were laid off while this was happening?).  Gee, if I went into bankruptcy, I doubt I’d emerge with a “competitive compensation” package.

“USG’s executive officers received non-qualified option grants that vest at a rate of 20% per year and restricted stock units that vest at 25% per year.  During bankruptcy, management had the certainty of cash.  Options they owned could have been underwater.  On the other hand, with a cash plan, they missed out on appreciation, Jarrett explains.  Another option grant was made in March, 2007 as part of the new long term incentive plan, which also included grants of restricted-stock units and performance shares.  Fox adds, ‘We were trying to establish competitive compensation, but to have the shareholders look at it and say, ‘”this is fair.  They’ve delivered value for the shareholders.”‘ 

“Another issue arose when the committee decided to give special cash awards to Foote and his two top lieutenants, CFO Rick Fleming and general counsel Stan Ferguson, for their leadership during the Chapter 11 proceedings.  Foote was given $1 million, and Fleming and Ferguson each earned $500,000.  “They all did both jobs — restructuring and running the business,” explains Jarrett.  The board felt they deserved to be rewarded.  But “we knew this was going to be in our disclosure documents. We asked ourselves, ‘Can it stand up to the shareholders reading it?'” The plan was detailed in the March 2007 proxy and did not generate any controversy among shareholders.”  

Excuse me?  They’ve delivered value for the shareholders?  Oh, okay.  That’s all that matters.  They get rewarded for delivering value to the shareholders.  WHAT FREAKING VALUE DID THEY DELIVER TO THEIR EMPLOYEES????

Now, take a look at this.  This is Bill Foote’s (Chairman of the Board for USG)  total compensation for the year 2009!!!   This came from here.  Take a gander at it.  Oh, poor guy.  He didn’t get a bonus.  Gosh.  I bet that was used as a pity tool for lack of bonuses that year.  “Bill Foote didn’t even get a bonus.”

Compensation for 2009

Salary $1,150,000.00
Bonus $0.00
Restricted stock awards $2,163,161.00
All other compensation $64,504.00
Option awards $ $1,088,858.00
Non-equity incentive plan compensation $782,000.00
Change in pension value and nonqualified deferred compensation earnings $1,886,957.00
Total Compensation $7,135,480.00

His total compensation two years ago as our economy was hitting the skids, was more than 200 times that of the average employee at one of the financial hubs.  You know – the employees who process all those payables and receivables that balance in such a way as to provide him this ENORMOUS AND UNNECESSARY compensation.

I did a quick calculation based on a pay rate that I believe to be an average for the office where my friend works, and that includes the two management people and the “HR” person (who isn’t the local HR representative.)  I chose $40,000.  Yes, people, I know that many in that office make much less than this amount but I know at least one who makes a hell of a lot more.

0.04% of Bill Foote’s total compensation package in 2009 could have paid the salaries for that office for all employees for a full year.

Bill Foote, why are you allowing this to happen?

Why aren’t you standing for the UNITED STATES that is in your company name and sacrificing so that YOUR people can keep their jobs??

Why are you, the chairman of the board for UNITED STATES Gypsum, allowing jobs to be outsourced?

Why are you allowing a single mom with two children who you already pay so little that she has to get food from a free food pantry to be “downsized?”

Why are you allowing a 54 year old woman with a disabled husband to be “downsized?”

Why are YOU and YOUR EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE not sacrificing to HELP these people instead of kicking them out of the way as though they are some sort of garbage in the way of your (most likely) Italian-shod feet?

I know why you are doing this.  You live in a luxury mansion, with all the coolest, latest gizmos and gadgets, you have a wife who expects to wear designer clothing and have luxury vacations, your children are probably in private schools, your food is the best your money can buy, you must pay your interior designer, you must pay your gardener, housekeeper, and let’s not forget that you must pay for your luxury automobiles…oh wait.  I’ll bet the company pays for those.  And for the insurance on them.

Bill Foote, I worked for you.  For YOU, because YOU represent USG.  I was terminated in February, 2011.  I cannot find work.  I’ve had to reinvent myself.  I’m having to move from my lovely quaint neighborhood into a low-rent district 100 miles away so I can afford to have a roof over my head.  Yet, I’m one of the fortunate ones.  I don’t have any other mouths to feed.  I am not a single mom with two children.  I have a skill set outside of what I did for your company.  I don’t have a child with special health-care needs.  I don’t have a disabled husband.  I just have two cats.  I’m fortunate.

Hey Bill, do you own an iPhone?  An iPad?  How much did you pay for your last Gitman Brothers shirt?  Or was it Brooks Brothers?  Or maybe something even more expensive.  How much did you pay for your last golf sweater?  Know how much I paid for my last sweater?  $2.50 and I bought it at Goodwill.  How about your Allan Edmonds shoes?  Maybe you don’t wear Allan Edmonds.  Maybe they’re just too “pedestrian” for you at more than $300 a pair.

Hey Bill, since your company terminated me without severance, guess how much money I have left every month to eat, while living on unemployment?  $77.  I bet you spend that on lunch.

Hey Bill, how the hell do you expect these people you are “downsizing” to take care of themselves and their families at even a basic level?  Oh wait, I forgot.  They’re not people.  They’re numbers.  Do you know their names?  Nope.  You don’t want to know their names because that would make it personal.  Want to know who you’re ruining?  Post here with your email and I’ll email you the names of the people in that office who will suffer most from your greed.

Hey Bill, before you lay all these people off, before you spend another penny of the money your employees earned for you, take a month and live on $1,356.  Feed your family on it, pay all your bills on it.  Have tons of fun on it and then report back to me and tell me how well you did, because that is precisely the amount the Transaction Associates in the hub in my city will get for unemployment benefits.

Hey Bill, maybe someone needs to Occupy USG.  Whatcha think?  You and your executive minions are a disgrace to this country.  USG does not deserve to have the words UNITED STATES in its name.

Don’t tell me about all your philanthropy.  I know all about corporate executive philanthropy.  It’s bogus.  Now, were you to do it anonymously, and from your own pocket in figures that would make a difference in the lives of those people you are “downsizing” I might have some respect for you.  You won’t do it.

Hey Bill!  Be a REAL leader, step out and make a difference instead of allowing your sense of entitlement to tell you that you deserve more than $7 million a year in compensation.

Bill, be a warrior!  Have courage, man.  Step up to the plate, make a significant sacrifice yourself and then tell your executives that they must also do it, to set an example.  Think of the domino effect that could have!  Think of it – your name in NEON:  Bill Foote, Compassionate and Humanitarian Executive Saves Employees At His Own Expense!  

All it takes is one REAL leader, Bill.  Just one.  Are you that leader?

Bill, in this country, it’s unheard of for the Chairman of the Board of a major American corporation to personally extend a helping hand to his employees, to those employees from which so bloody much loyalty and hard work is demanded, to those employees who are told how oh-so-important they are…until they’re not, and to those employees whose loyalty and hard work is repaid with a big fat ZERO.  Bill, what’s $7 million minus zero?  That’s what you’ll earn this year.  What’s 11 people with families minus jobs?  Can you do that math?

It seems your $7 million plus is way more important than the survival of the average American families who may be ruined by your latest decision.  Oh, it wasn’t YOUR decision?  Oh yes it was, because it could not have happened without your knowledge and without you signing off on it.   Go ahead, blame it on the board members.  It was THEM.  They voted to do this.  Oh, it was the shareholders.  Ahh, that makes all the difference.  NOT.  Be accountable, Mr. Chairman.

You could have prevented it, but instead you chose to ruin those less fortunate than yourself.  Well, Mr. Chairman, all I have left to say is this:  As ye sow, so shall ye reap.  Biblical justice is sometimes a fine thing to watch.  No, that’s not a threat, so don’t go running for your battalion of corporate attorneys.  It’s simply the way of life.  You get what you give.  You may not get it tomorrow or next year, but you will get it.  It doesn’t come in an in-kind form, either.  The universe has a sense of justice and humor and it does provide balance.  If you get with it and do the right thing; if you do the moral thing, you’ll have the satisfaction of knowing you did right.  That’s worth way more than $7 million a year, don’t you think?

You think you’re doing this for the good of the company?  Nah.  You did this for yourself.  There was another way.  You and your board chose the low road and that is the path most traveled and most destructive.  That path is fairly congested these days.


		
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Do You Think You’re Safe Because You Have a Job?

Americans can’t handle the truth.  I wonder if Americans even know what truth is any longer.  In the 80’s we allowed Reaganomics to enter our lives.  We voted in a president who then turned our country over to Corporate America.  Now our government has decreed that Corporations are PEOPLE.  In the 90’s our economy ballooned and everyone was fat and happy.  The public didn’t heed the warning signs and they racked up credit debt in a race to keep up with the ubiquitous Jones’.  Then came subprime lending.  The house of cards begins to topple.  We borrow from China.  CHINA.  Does anyone understand the ramifications of this???

Public greed ran neck-in-neck with corporate greed.  It was hard to tell who was stealing from whom – at the time. We now know it was the way it’s always been – the rich were stealing from those less rich.  The poor didn’t count.  They were hidden away; ignored; sneered at and welfare moms who really were NOT working the system and would have given their right arms for a REAL chance were told to get jobs.  Get jobs?  How?  It’s one thing to tell someone to do something; it’s quite another thing if the only job they can get will not support their families, yet disqualifies them for benefits.

I currently live in a very upscale neighborhood.  When I first moved here, I had a good job, and was doing okay.  The neighbors loved me.  A year later, I was laid off and golly gosh, it seems I’m  now invisible.  I no longer get invited to neighborhood social functions.  I know why.

My neighbors fear that my unemployed status is catching, and frankly, it IS.  What they don’t realize, because they live in ivory towers built on glass houses, is that they won’t catch the unemployment disease from me.  They’ll catch it from America.  What they don’t realize is that their lives are going to change, and drastically, over the next year, as our economy continues to plummet.  All but the wealthiest will be affected.  What they are afraid of is having to learn how to simply survive, which is what I’m doing.

They are afraid that through association (humans aren’t rational where fear is involved) with an unemployed individual who is in survival mode, that they will have to face reality.

I know at least one neighbor who simply can’t face that kind of reality.  Instead she ramps up the visibility of her husband’s wealth.  Thing is, that couple is one who might survive, simply because the husband comes from old money and has tons of it.  She has milk and ice cream delivered.  She has her groceries delivered.  She imports furniture from various countries for her porch.  She won’t even wave back to me now when she’s sitting in her imported furniture on her front porch and I wave to her as I’m heading for my car.  She pretends not to see me.

No one is safe.  I read recently that people with jobs need to “make themselves indispensable” to their employers if they want to find a better job, because during this crisis, employers will view someone who is still employed as a much better candidate, since they’ve managed to survive through layoffs.  I call this bullshit.  No one is safe.  Did you read that at the beginning of the paragraph?  There is NO SUCH THING as being “indispensable” to a corporate entity.  You are a number and if you affect the bottom line in a negative fashion at any moment, you will be deemed dispensable.  Trust me.

I recently heard from an acquaintance who works in HR that companies have recently found a very clever way to get around age discrimination in hiring.  They don’t want to hire anyone over age 40 if they can help it, except at the very top levels, so when they get your resume, and they see your qualifications are in alignment with their needs, they send an email directing you to a secure intra-company website where you can “get the ball rolling” by providing them with information so they can start the background check on you.  So you input your information, they do a check and they weed out anyone over 40, give them a “first” interview which is usually by phone and tell them that they have other candidates to call and will be selecting people for the “second” interview after they have spoken with the first round of candidates. You never get a second interview if you’re over 40.

This is happening all over the country.  I recently asked someone to tell me the average age of her entire department. It was 26.  There was no one over 42 in the department.

I’m 50.  I have almost 30 years of IT experience and I can’t find work.  I don’t have a degree in IT, but that shouldn’t matter.  My experience should matter.  I’m automatically disqualified, even for entry level IT positions, because companies are now REQUIRING an IT degree for entry level jobs.

I’m disqualified for the few positions that don’t require a degree because it’s deemed that I would be “unhappy” and not “make a commitment to the company” because I’m overqualified for the job.  For jobs at my level, there are a thousand other applicants, and many of them have degrees.  Even if I am better qualified, the person with the degree will be hired, especially if that applicant is younger.

Mostly, I can’t find work because I’m 50.  You say that’s not true?  Prove it.  Prove that companies are more than willing to hire a 50 year old woman with almost 30 years experience in her field, but who doesn’t have a degree in the field, when they can hire someone half her age who DOES have the degree they want.

Show me even ONE company who will do it. They won’t, because they see me as too expensive.  Healthcare would cost more, they’d have to pay me what I’m worth and they’re not willing to do that; I’m 15 years from retirement age and good lord, I could just drop dead of a heart attack at my desk!  What if I have some catastrophic illness their insurance has to cover?  What if I have to go on disability, thus costing them even MORE money?  What if? What if?

Not a bit of this can be proved.  No company will admit to doing what I’ve described.  The person who told me what her company (and other companies) are doing with regard to age also told me if I ever quoted her using her name, she’d deny it.  Of course she would.  If she didn’t, she’d get fired.

I recently heard unemployment quoted as having decreased to 9.1% nationwide.  That’s a crock of shit.  They’re only counting the numbers of those who are currently receiving benefits.  What about those who no longer qualify and have had to move in with family or friends because they can no longer support themselves?  I think the number is closer to 15 or 20% but Americans can’t handle the truth.  Our government doesn’t want us to know the truth because if we did know it, we might attempt to do something about it.  Our government is exactly like corporate America – why wouldn’t it be like that – corporate America owns most of it.  When do you get the bad news from a corporate entity?  You get it the day YOU get the ax.

Does anyone reading this believe that our government is going to stand up and tell us the truth of what’s happening?  Does anyone reading this believe that our government is going to flood the airwaves with the reality of the situation and tell us all that we need to seriously simplify and downsize our standard of living? Is the government going to tell Americans they can no longer drive their SUVs because they are sucking up the remnants of fossil fuels on this planet?  Can you imagine what would happen if Americans were told they had to ration gas? Remember WWII?  No – you’re probably too young.   I’m too young, but my parents aren’t.

Remember the Great Depression?  No, you probably don’t, and neither do I.  My parents remember it because they lived through it.  I was raised by a mother who allowed us one paper sack a week for lunch and that sack had to come home every day to be reused.  She washed aluminum foil.  She saved plastic lunch baggies, and we washed them out to reuse until they were no longer usable.

We got one pair of shoes a year, and only if we’d outgrown or worn out the pair we’d got the year before.  We never ate out.  We got practical items for christmas.  We went to visit family on vacation, not Disney World.  I’ve never been there.  We never went to the beach.

My mother planned menus at the beginning of each week and grocery shopped accordingly.  She never bought junk food.  We weren’t allowed to just “raid” the refrigerator.  She washed clothes in the washer but hung them on the clothesline.  When clothes became ragged they were cut up into cleaning rags.  Mom never bought a sponge or a dish rag.  We used our own rags.

Fancy cleaning supplies?  Forget it.  Bleach and water.  Ammonia (but not with bleach) if necessary.  Vinegar and newspaper to clean windows.  Polyurethane was taped over every window in the house in the winter to keep out all drafts and the heat stayed at 65.  If we were cold, we put on more clothes.

We had “school” clothes and “play” clothes and the two NEVER interchanged.  We had 7 pair of underpants, and each girl in the family had two bras.  Showers were limited to 5 minutes once a week.  All other days hair was washed in the kitchen sink and we were ordered to use a washcloth and soap to wash OUR ENTIRE BODIES in the bathroom daily.

No money was spent on makeup or special personal care items unless a doctor ordered it, as with my siblings and their acne.  No hairdryer existed in my home, no curling irons.  We had one black and white TV and it was not on unless my parents approved of what we wanted to watch, which was rare.

The list goes on.  How many Americans are willing to change their current lifestyle to incorporate the work that goes into what I described above?  Hardly any that I know.  We are a disposable society.

As a country, we are in a seriously precarious position.  I don’t believe we’re teetering on the edge of the abyss any longer; I believe we’ve slid into it.  The truth is that we’re on a sled down an icy hill and there’s a thawing lake at the bottom. We will die of exposure, hypothermia or drowning if we don’t hop off that sled NOW.  It will be tough to keep from sliding all the way down but if we use our wits, and strength, we can make it.

When I’m in the mood, I’ll turn on the news and I’ll hear the media spin regarding the economy, how unemployment is “down” and how jobs are being created here and there and then I look on craigslist and what I see breaks my heart.

People are giving away pets because their house was foreclosed and they have to move in with family who are allergic, or they have to move someplace that won’t take pets.  I just saw a photo of two lovely siamese cats that someone is giving away because they have to move and can’t take them with.  The kitties were sitting on a moving box, looking plaintively into the camera.  What are the odds no one will take them and they will be euthanized?

I see people so desperate for money they are selling jewelry, antiques, household furniture, not because they are moving, but because they are trying to raise money.

One woman is selling tons of her household items for next to nothing because she’s unemployed and without the money, her daughter will have nothing for Christmas.  I wanted to email her and tell her that her daughter doesn’t NEED anything for Christmas – and that she could make it very special by each creating a hand-made poster collage that depicts the things for which they are grateful.  I didn’t, though.  It’s not my place.

I see people selling their vehicles so they can pay their mortgage; I see people with their long-time family homes for rent because they don’t want to lose the home, but can’t afford it any longer; they can’t afford the taxes; they can’t afford to heat and cool or maintain it; so they are moving their large families into small apartments and hoping to find someone with enough money to rent their family home at a rate that will allow them to maintain the home so that maybe, one day, (in the illusory future), they will be able to move back in.

I read a post by someone asking for prayers that she will be able to feed her family next week because if she feeds her family she won’t have enough to pay the back rent and she will be evicted.  She didn’t ask for money or food, she simply asked for prayers.

Many jobs that I apply for online shows how many people have applied thus far and provides demographics.  More than 50% are unemployed and, on average, half of those have a master’s or doctorate.  The quantity of applicants is sometimes in the thousands.

I read where someone offered free child care in return for someone paying so that she could go to the doctor.

When are we going to wake up, AS A COUNTRY, and do what we need to do to stop this?  Occupy Wall Street isn’t the answer.  The answer lies within ourselves.  Each of us must tighten our belts, do without, scale back everything that is unnecessary, and learn to live withOUT credit.  We need to get ourselves as debt-free as possible, learn to live within our means and on a budget, and teach our children that who and what they ARE is more important than who they know or what they own.

We need to start being leaders again.  When will that happen?