Friday, February 17, 2006

A Fucked Up American Fairy Tale

Once upon a time, there was a family living a good life in the suburbs of New Jersey. The husband was a scientist who wanted to discover a drug that cured cancer, or AIDS, or even herpes. He worked hard, as did his wife, to provide for their growing family.

After awhile, the family decided that it was too expensive to live a decent life in New Jersey. As long as they lived there, they would always have to worry about their financial futures. The family also wanted their children to know their grandmothers and cousins. The way to do that was to move to the Midwest. The problem was, there were only four companies in the Midwest that did the kind of work that the husband did--and three of them weren't hiring. The husband interviewed with a fantastic company in the Midwest that offered him a promising career track and interesting projects. The company was a huge international consumer products company that had a small pharmaceutical arm. It was perfect! He was promised a ton of exposure for his work, rapid promotions and a lot less corporate bullshit because the group was small, but had the comfort of a large corporate umbrella for things like benefits and reputation.

And so they went. They bought a beautiful house. A house they NEVER could have had on the East Coast. They had the luxury of the wife being able to stay home with the children. They opened up a couple of 529Bs for the kids--something they wouldn't have been able to do without a lot of sacrifice. They paid off their debts, leaving only a house payment. They were hardly wealthy, but life was good.

The first week the husband was in his new job, he found out that an announcement had been made two weeks prior to the move that the pharmaceutical division was going to restructure. The wife was surprised that no one had bothered to pick up the phone to let them know prior to the move. The husband said that it probably didn't apply to him since they just paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to move him and several other scientists to this town to work. They had told him they were expanding, after all. But then he was told he wouldn't get the associates that he was promised upon joining. Scientists who had been there for years started applying for positions outside of the pharmaceutical division so they wouldn't have to leave the fair city and work for another company. Since there was a hiring freeze, the husband had lots of work piled up on him.

Months passed, and the company's main focus was on the purchase of another company. A company whose newest product is a razor with 5 blades. The pharmaceutical division plugged along. The husband was growing increasingly frustrated with the situation, but was hopeful that the reorganization would bring welcome changes. First the company said they would detail the reorganization at the end of January. When January came and went, the company said the announcement would come at the end of February. Then they said the announcement would come on February 17.

The husband went to the meeting. The powers that be announced that the entire Pharmaceutical R&D team will be dissolved, affecting 300 people. Gone. Buh Bye. The last day will be June 30. The husband will receive three months severance since he has only been there less than a year. He also received an invitation to apply for exciting R&D positions in areas such as diapers, toothpaste or laundry detergent. The husband is going to find out if groups will be gradually let go or if everyone's last day is June 30.

So now, the family will be preparing to move elsewhere. They've done it before. St. Louis, Maryland, Pittsburgh and New Jersey. While the family never really thought they would live there forever, there was power in thinking that they would be leaving on their own volition.

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