Tweet, tweet, tweet for Tweeter folks
I'm am always saddened to hear about companies that are laying people off, filing for bankruptcy, or going out of business. Unlike those who celebrate the Darwinian brilliance with which capitalism corrects its mistakes and evolves on, I always find myself thinking about the employees who get caught in the crossfire.
And I'm always saddened when the company doing the laying off, bankruptcy filing, and going out of business is local.
As in Tweeter, which is located in Canton, Massachusetts.
Now, I don't know if I actually ever bought anything at Tweeter, but the Tweeter store in Back Bay was a frequent stop of walks, a grown up candy store where my husband could lust in his heart after a mega-flatscreen TV. I haven't been by in a while, so I don't know if it's still there, or is going, going, gone.
In any case, Tweeter - with its high end products and services has been boxed out by the big box stores and their relentless, race to the bottom pricing and service strategies - has fallen on hard times.
When they began making noises about shutting down certain parts of their operation (stores and distribution centers) earlier this year, some employees jumped ship right away. Others were encouraged to stay in exchange for a severance package.
That was then. This is now.
A recent Boston Globe article by Se Young Lee chronicled the troubles of one Ron Rivera, a Tweeter employee in California who hung on to help shut down the distribution center where he worked, agreeing to stay on until mid-May.
Rivera, counting on almost $7,000 from the company, as well as a month of paid health insurance, turned down two job offers and decided to take a month off to spend time with his two teenage daughters.
But Rivera did not get a check on June 15, when the first payment was supposed to arrive. When he called the company Monday, he learned what hundreds of other employees who stayed on at one of the 49 stores being closed are finding out: There is no check coming, because of the Canton company's June 11 bankruptcy filing.
The CEO, Joe McGuire, who is clearly in a very difficult and painful position here, was unfortunately quoted as saying,
"Employees were expecting severance, and the company was really hoping to pay it. It's unfortunate, but it is what it is."
It is what it is.
Thanks, Joe, for those words of wisdom.
The 150 or so employees who have had their severance pay severed are obviously aggrieved. They have been told that they can file a claim with the Bankruptcy Court, where, I expect, they'll need to get in line.
When I volunteered for separation from Genuity in 2002, the company was on the brink of bankruptcy. I left in May and the company filed, I believe, in July.
Within about 3 1/2 seconds of filing, there was a rumor swirling around the ex-Genu listserv that severance packages were going to be a casualty of the bankruptcy filing. I can't recall the exact structure of the Genuity six-months severance package I got, but I think I got paid regularly for a couple of months and was then going to get a lump sum payment for the remaining four months, due any day.
One of the reasons I raised my hand for the Spring 2002 lay-off at Genuity was that I figured it was going to be the last reduction that came with good severance packages. I was wrong. Bankruptcy and all, the company paid out the same severance packages until the bitter end, and also honored the bonus deals it made with those who agree to stick around and turn the lights out. I don't know how they did it, but it's apparently true that - at least in some cases - even in bankruptcy, companies can still pay severance out.
As I awaited my final payment from Genuity, I can honestly say that I sweated it out. The day it arrived, I rushed to the bank to deposit it and continued to sweat until the check cleared. So I can imagine how Ron Rivera of Tweeter felt:
"It was kind of like a big rock falling on you," he said.
"All of a sudden I have a mortgage to worry about and a car payment to worry about. I'm in a bad spot right now."
When you're counting on a severance package and it falls apart, I'm sure it does feel exactly like a big rock falling on you.
My sympathies to Ron Rivera and the other former employees, sitting there stunned. Just as if they were hit in the head with a big rock. Warehouse men, store clerks, distribution center employees. Don't those rocks seem to fall disproportionately on the little guys?