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“Brother’s got this complex occupation . . . ..”

Erykah Badu, “Danger”

I was one of over 200,000 California state employees furloughed last Friday. This doesn’t make me unique, or, given my occupation, sympathetic, either. All in all, BMNB (my husband, Black Man Not Blogging) and I don’t have it as bad as many others who were furloughed, have been laid off, or are facing layoffs. In fact, BMNB even got a step increase in his salary this year, which will help offset my 10% pay cut.

But I had a lot of time to think on "Furlough Friday". And I’m wondering: Is it time for a sistah to get ghost?

You see, BMNB has a “complex occupation,” to borrow from Erykah Badu’s song, “Danger.” No, he’s not a drug dealer, but he does have some strictures to follow to maintain his security clearance. One of them is keeping good credit. And given that I contribute at least half, if not more, to our household expenses, I need to keep an income so he can keep good credit, maintain his security clearance, and keep his job, too.

I was assured by many California state employee old-timers that this furlough wouldn’t happen, that it was just political posturing. They’d been the pawns in so many games of “fiscal chicken” between past California governors and the legislature that they weren’t as alarmed as I was about the possibility of a furlough. The unions will fight it, they assured me. It will take a long time to implement, they said.

Well, it happened. Even my union got kicked out of an appeals court for filing a petition to stay the furlough too late for the court to consider it. Mind you, this is union of attorneys that got kicked out of court on a technicality of their own making. Can I get my union dues back or what?

So if a furlough could happen, who’s to say that a layoff couldn’t?

“It’s been a long time since my man’s been gone
But when he gets here, you know I won’t be gone
Because I love him
Love him strong . . .”

During the last financial crisis we faced as a couple, BMNB took the bull by the balls and got a better paying job outside of our city. He would get up at 3 am every Monday morning, pack his clothes, his food, and whatever else he needed to spend a week in San Francisco working 10 hour days or longer. He would come in exhausted and depleted on Friday nights and would split his weekend between our household and his elderly parents, especially his ill father, and then get back on the road at 4:00 am Monday morning to do the same thing over again. He never complained, even though I did, and he brought his money home to keep us going. In other words, he just manned up and shut the eff up. Luckily, he was able to find a position here in town last March, and it was the first time in over a year that we were able to see each other on a daily basis. Although this potential financial crisis is not of my making, maybe I need to woman up, leave the comfort zone of my present job, and find a more secure position, even if it means that I’m the one commuting at 4:00 in the morning. Oh, and shut the eff up, too, because I have no illusions that my situation is nearly as bad as what other folks are facing.

“Got a box of money that I keep under my bed
But we don’t spend it though, might need it for more yeyo
We need this money just in case we need to make a run
Gotta keep a clip on mama’s gun . . . or run . . . ."

BMNB is a regular saver; me, not as much. I do contribute regularly to my 401K, which still has value (at least last time I checked). We could ride out a layoff for a while with our combined savings, stock, and 401K contributions, but not for average 12-18 months it’s taking folks to get back into the job market.

“Danger, you’re in danger, no hard feelings
Right or wrong,
Weak or strong,
I don’t make the laws . . . .”

Layoffs in California state civil service are implemented by levels of seniority and according to state laws and regulations. No matter how you slice it, with fewer than five years of state service where most state employees have 10+ years or more, I’m toast if there’s a layoff. Do I wait to see what happens, or do I pull an Alan Greenspan and get ghost before the bottom falls out? Mind you, I like my boss, I like my job, I like my co-workers. Under no other circumstances would I even imagine going out in the job market yet again. But I think it would be foolish of me to think that a layoff couldn’t happen. Because this furlough sure as hell did.

Plus, I’ve already committed to my niece that if her stupid union goes on strike – yes, her union is that stupid, too – that she could just rent out her house and stay with us. In order for me to keep this commitment, I have to have a house for her and her son to come to.

So, as I drove to work today, I played what I call my “war songs trilogy” – Erykah Badu’s Danger, Think Twice, and Love of My Life Worldwide -- Danger because of the defensive posture that this drug dealer’s woman in the song has to take in defense of her man and their lives; Think Twice because you always need to think twice before you take action; and Love of My Life Worldwide because the original Love of My Life came from one of my favorite black couple movies, “Brown Sugar,” and reminds me of the love of my life, and because it has four very powerful black women – Erykah, Queen Latifah, Angie Stone, and Bahamadiah – mc’ing. It reminds me of the power that I have – that all black women have – when we choose to use it. These songs are the songs I listen to when I have to prepare to do battle or face something that I don’t really want to deal with.

Like a layoff.


Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's administration says it will issue pink slips Friday if a deal to close the nearly $42-billion gap is not reached by week's end. The cuts would save $150 million a year.

By Michael Rothfield reporting from sacramento
12:18 PM PST, February 10, 2009

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger will move to lay off as many as 10,000 state workers if lawmakers fail to pass a plan to close California's nearly $42-billion deficit by the end of the week, an administration spokesman said this morning.Schwarzenegger's press secretary, Aaron McLear, said at a media briefing that the administration would send out pink slips Friday, absent a budget deal. The layoff process generally takes about six months for state employees due to union rules and other legal considerations, and bureaucratic procedures the state must follow. The move would save the state $150 million annually if the jobs are eliminated by July 1, according to McLear.He said that about 20,000 workers could receive layoff notices, even though only half as many positions would ultimately be eliminated. Many of the job eliminations would happen with layoffs, but some could take place through attrition. Administration officials said the extra notices must be sent because the administration might not be able to legally lay off some of the workers who get them; other employees would be moved into other state jobs. The layoffs would affect mostly workers with the least seniority."This is not a [negotiating] tactic," McLear said. "This is simply out of necessity. The state is running out of money. The governor has very few options at his disposal that he can unilaterally use to cut back on state spending."The layoff threat comes as the governor is forcing most state workers to take off two Fridays per month without pay -- the equivalent of an approximately 9% pay cut. The first mandatory day off for state workers was Friday.


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