OK

I am a 52 year old professional, educated woman. I was born, raised and live in Grand Rapids, Michigan. My position was "eliminated due to restructuring" in March, along with a few others in my department. The place where I worked (please don't ask me to name the organization, because I won't, and more precisely, I can't) restructures on a routine basis, and when you hire in, the term "at will" is presented, up front, as a real possibility. I understood that.

I've done my level best to handle this turn of events with grace and peace, and I haven't complained about being unemployed (okay, maybe a tiny bit, but really, not much). I've done everything I'm supposed to do to look for a new job, to move forward.  I've done a lot of networking, rethinking my persona and how to sell myself, rebranding, taking loads of classes, trying to figure out what the next big thing in my life is going to be.  I've concluded that, no matter what, I must love what I do and do what I love, and that happiness will follow. I've also come to the decision that I fit better within a small organization that allows me to be, well, me.

Let me back track. For the first time in my life, I found myself unemployed at 51 years old. I've worked since I was 12 (babysitting), and paid taxes into the system since I was 16. Worked all through college. Got a job in 1982 the week after I graduated with a B.S. in English and Communications. I had a couple of months off when I had my child in 1988, and when I had an accident in 1994. Beyond that, I've worked full time my entire life. I've paid taxes. Happily, actually. (I believe in supporting The Commons, and I wish the tax rates were higher.)

And then I found myself in what I call the "Tom Petty state."  I was "Free Falling." (I am a good girl, and I'm crazy about Elvis [Costello]! I love Buddha, and America, too.) And so it goes.

If you'll join me below the pretty pumpkin serif, I'll explain why my heart is heavy tonight.

I've been on unemployment for an undisclosed number of weeks now.  I look for work on a daily basis.  Crickets.  In fact, all I hear is the Sound of Silence.  Every week, I do what I'm supposed to do to find a job.  The Michigan Unemployment Agency, when you visit them in person (because you can't get anyone on the phone ever), has been a pretty decent experience, IN PERSON so far. The workers have been compassionate and understanding, and they've resolved all of my concerns within a matter of minutes. However, with regard to the Michigan Unemployment Insurance Agency, ET might as well phone to another planet, because there is no one home.

Much to my dismay, I read this late tonight on the local news station.

Grand Rapids jobless appeals office to close.

The State of Michigan plans to close a Grand Rapids unemployment office where appeals to benefit rulings are heard.  People, either the unemployed or their employer, will now have to travel to Lansing for an in-person hearing, or do it over the phone.

"It's an efficiency move more than anything," said Mike Zimmer, the Executive Director of the Michigan Administrative Hearing System.

Zimmer said cuts in funding combined with the desire to go to teleconference appeal hearings is driving the move. However, advocates contend the in-person hearings are pivotal for both parties, employer and employee, to make their case in a convincing way.

Okay, let's go back to the efficiency and teleconferencing concerns.  Are you kidding me?  I have attempted to call the UIA on numerous occasions, dialing the numbers sometimes for hours, and I've never, NOT ONCE, NEVER gotten through to a live person.  The phone rings and rings, or you have a robot come on to tell you to wait, and then it hangs up on you.  This makes no sense to me, and in fact, it's very disconcerting.  

You mean to tell me that the second largest city in the eighth largest state in the United States of America is closing up shop because of "efficiencies?" They've yet to show me any efficiency with regard to telephone communication.  ZERO.  More from the article:

Zimmer says offices will remain open in Traverse City, Lansing, Detroit, and Novi. However, he said that Michigan is in the minority of states to not offer appeals hearings via telephone and does plan to move in that direction.

Just to make a point, as a Michigander who went to college in the Upper Peninsula, Traverse City is the closest place someone from Marquette can go to dispute their unemployment case.  That's a good five hour drive.  And the U.P. goes several hours west from there.

"We hope to transition to a majority of phone hearings status statewide, which will alleviate the need for some of these district offices," Zimmer said.

Good luck with that, Zimmer.  You can't even get anyone to answer the phone, now.  And with the cost of gas hovering around $ 4/gallon, the fact that you expect people to drive to Lansing from all over down state (this isn't a small state to travel, by the way) while not making anything or making lame unemployment wages to protest the denial of a claim is disgusting.

Rick Snyder is no friend to employees, and he's no friend to labor.  In Michigan, we need to vote out this Republican congress and get Snyder the hell out of the governor's office.  He's already reduced unemployment benefits to a maximum of 20 weeks.  We can treat our Michigan workers better than this by acknowledging that class warfare does exist, especially in this state, and by treating displaced workers like they're human beings instead of the serfs this administration thinks we are. I don't know anyone who is unemployed who doesn't want to work.

These assholes discourage us from even trying.

Originally posted to VickiStein on Tue Sep 25, 2012 at 11:51 PM PDT.

Also republished by Unemployment Chronicles and Community Spotlight.

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