Monday, November 29, 2010

Day 333- The Freeze

Dear Mr, President,

When I began my time at Borders the company had a policy to evaluate employees on a yearly basis and to give out a modest raise based on that evaluation. (While we were discouraged from discussing the amount of these raises, word has a way of getting around. The last year that they were in place, raises were about $.03-.11/hr.) While there were always grumblings about the meanness of size of these wage increases, they could not begin to rival the uproar that taking them away entirely created. Citing very real financial troubles, the company chose to cut costs by cutting any merit increases for employees. I'd been in management positions before and after this decision and I noticed a distinct increase in apathy that I couldn't find the heart to condemn. The face of our company was not the executives who still lived with 6-figure incomes and yearly bonuses, but the employees who were making near-minimum wage and seeing cost of living increase while pay stagnated and benefits were slashed. Clearly, Borders has not presented a particularly happy face to the public ever since.

When I read about your decision to freeze wages for Federal Employees I was deeply unsettled. This strategy was not particularly effective for Borders, and I don't imagine it will be the miracle that deficit-concerned Americans are looking for when applied to Federal employees. Why is it that Federal employees can be forced to pay the the price of our deficit, but taxing the rich at pre-Bush-administration levels is tantamount to class warfare?

Also, while it may be crass to consider something as tangible as peoples' livelihoods a negotiating point, but it seems like poor political strategy to order this freeze without getting some concession or promise in return, like the expiration of Bush tax-cuts or the extension of unemployment benefits.

At Borders, while the employees grew unhappy, the wage freeze did little to solve the company's financial problems. Layoffs came next, and still the company struggles. I may have little expertise in economic matters, but I witnessed firsthand the way that punishing the anonymous laborers for the mistakes of the wealthy executives destroyed a company that once led the industry in the way it treated its employees. I would hate to see the same thing happen to our country. Yes, economic times are tough and we will all suffer the consequences of this, but those who are weathering the storm with the least inconvenience- the rich- will not be the ones to restore our economic stability. Recovery will come from the poor and especially from the middle class. Further inhibiting their buying power is only going to make things worse.

I understand you have tough choices to make and this was certainly not a decision you made lightly. I will keep faith in your good intentions and in the wisdom of your decisions, and hope that you find the courage to make sure that the burden of this recession is borne equally by the wealthiest Americans.

Respectfully yours,


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