The Great 2014 Massacre

Well, I was all set to write up some happy go lucky blog entry all about my New Year’s Resolutions and what I wanted to accomplish in the year ahead (lose weight, get in shape, do more with the kiddies, blah, blah, blah, that sort of thing) and then, as life tends to do, things went sideways.

As I was getting ready to go to work yesterday I received a text from one of my coworkers “Don’t know if you’ve heard, they laid 12 people off at work today.” Yep, less than a week into 2014 and everything’s gone to hell. I didn’t get many more details until after I got to work, and even then it was mostly folks just standing around speculating. Turns out it was not 12 laid off, it was 17 (although two in that count had already left the agency).

A little bit of background of what my day job is (or I suppose “evening job” since I work swing shift). I’m a Bookbinder 2 at the Washington State Department of Printing. Or rather, I used to be. I still work there, but two years ago they merged my agency in with a bunch of the other “support” agencies (state motor pool, campus mail, etc.) so now I’m a “Printing & Imaging Specialist 2” working at the “Department of Enterprise Services, Print & Imaging” (at least until they decide to change my title or company’s name again).

As a Bookbinder 2 I run the various paper folding machines, collating machine, mailing labelers, and binding stuff. Basically, whatever you do to paper after its printed is what the Bindery is responsible for. We’re the ones that send out all those obnoxious political mailers that fill your garbage can every year, but we’re also the ones that print the paper your car title is on and the health care fliers that warn you of the dangers of Chlamydia. Chances are, if you live in Washington State, you’ve come in contact with something that my agency has made.

Hard to believe this place is getting smaller.

Its hard to believe this place is getting smaller.

My agency is in flux right now (which explains our merger into the DES). With the general decline print media our work load has been gradually decreasing, and last year they changed the laws so that other agencies are no longer required to use the State Printer for their print needs and can take their work to whoever they feel is cheapest or provides the best customer service.

When I first started with PRT 10 years ago there were around 138 people working there (I’m totally guessing at that number), and it’s gradually decreased since then. As people left, their positions have remained unfilled. We’ve dwindled down to 60 or so and now, thanks to yesterday’s layoffs, even less.

The agency eliminated all of their small press operators, along with cuts in other areas. In truth, because I work on swing shift, I didn’t get a chance to know many of my coworkers who got laid off. I do however know about my good friend Jim who was on the list. He was hired on at the PRT almost ten years ago, just a few days before I was.  Jim is the swing shift envelope press operator. When I first started I was totally new to printing (my previous job was as a bread baker), but Jim came in with over 20 years’ experience operating printing presses.

Before & After "Osama Jim-laden"

Before & After “Osama Jim-laden”

He is always smiling, has time to say “Hi”, and is a willing listener when anyone needs a sympathetic ear to talk to. If you had any doubt that he was a good sport, then you should know, at one point Jim lost a bet and went a full year without cutting his hair or beard.

I’m really going to miss visiting with him and being able to tease him to “Hurry up Jim!” (A stupid joke because I don’t work in his area and have no idea what jobs he is working on). It really sucks what has happened to Jim and the other people on that list.

So you may ask yourself, “Um… this blog is titled “Random Dadisms” and you usually try to focus on your kids. What’s all this stuff about your job?” Well, as a parent, my job plays a huge part in taking care of my family. It pays the bills and helps to keep us fed. Even if I’m not the one being laid off, my employer cutting back still scares the crap out of me.

It’s a wake up call to look ahead to the future and think about what may lay in store, good and bad. If they got rid of the small presses today, what is going to happen tomorrow?

I never intended to be a career Bookbinder. I have an art degree (painting& drawing) and have always dreamed about putting those skills to work as an artist, perhaps doing illustration in children’s books. I need to seriously consider what I would do if I was the one laid off tomorrow. Could I go back to school? Teach art? Get a job at a gallery or museum?

My art skills are pretty rusty. When I have done work the last few years, my boys have been the inspiration.

"Zack & Josh" painted August 2011.

“Zack & Josh” painted August 2011.

At one point I was developing a coloring book based on dragons in the shape of every letter of the alphabet. I’m thinking it’s time for me to revisit that and see if I can get it published. We might make a little money from it, or it could open the door to future opportunities.

Dragon Letter "P"

Dragon Letter “P”

At the very least, this lay off has taught me that I’d better brush up my resume and start giving more thought to what the future has in store for me career wise. In the meantime at least I know that I can still use my art skills to give the kids a couple of kick ass bedrooms.

The Boy's rooms. Josh (stars) & Zack (Jungle)

The Boy’s rooms. Josh (stars) & Zack (Jungle)