Menu Close

A Reminder that American Workers Are Just an Entry on a Spreadsheet, Easily Deleted or Replaced


Two weeks ago, Polly’s boss, his boss, the head of human resources, and another man showed up unannounced at Polly’s office promptly at 6:00 pm start time, to inform her and her fellow employees that they were fired; effective March 28, 2024, their department was no more due to company restructuring, and their work outsourced to a private cleaning company. Polly later found out that one department employee was retained — a man. All the fired employees were women.

Polly worked for the company for twenty-seven years, NEVER tardy or missing work. Widely praised for her work ethic, Polly learned that being loyal to her employer didn’t matter; that all her hard work didn’t matter; that her high work standards didn’t matter. Five years ago, the company outsourced some of her department. At the time, I told her that this was a warning sign; and that there would come a day when the company, for financial reasons, would outsource the rest of her department’s employees. That time has come. Polly has learned that in a capitalistic system, she is just a line entry on a spreadsheet, one that was entered twenty-seven years ago, and with a couple of keystrokes will be deleted on March 28.

The company, for years, advertised itself as the “preferred place to work.” And it was until it wasn’t. Numerous benefits have either been cut or done away with altogether. Health insurance premiums have skyrocketed, as annual deductible and maximum out-of-pocket amounts have dramatically increased, all the while pay raises were nominal, if at all, never keeping up with inflation. Nowadays, it is easy to find companies offering better wages and benefits. The company has become just another place to work.

The company is non-union. The argument back in the day was that the wages and benefits were such that a union wasn’t needed. Those days are long gone. If the company was union, Polly would still have a job. Instead, the company can fire whomever they want, and it makes perfect sense in a capitalistic system to get rid of “expensive” employees: long-tenured workers who cost more in wages and benefits. It is a hell of a lot cheaper to have a twenty-five-year-old employee compared to a sixty-six-year-old employee. Age and insurance costs can’t legally be used as continued employment criteria, but I do not doubt that Polly’s age and our family’s high insurance costs were factors in deciding to let her go.

Let me be clear, the company is having serious financial problems. I understand that it must cut millions of dollars of expenses if there is any hope for its survival. Market forces, Trump’s tariffs, runaway insurance costs, and import pressures have put the company in an untenable position. Unfortunately, when a company’s survival is at stake, there’s no time to consider what is best for individual employees and their families. The books must be balanced and, unfortunately, Polly and her fellow employees had to go.

Polly was “offered” other employment opportunities within the company. However, all but one of the jobs she is unable to physically do. This, of course, keeps the company from having to pay unemployment. Ohio is an at-will state. Employers can fire non-union workers for any reason. By offering Polly other employment, the company avoids paying unemployment if she refuses the offered jobs. Again, capitalism at its best.

Polly has several interviews over the next week. One was today. $4 an hour pay cut, with awful — might as well be non-existent — benefits. Family insurance costs? Almost $900 a month, with an annual $6,000 deductible and $14,700 maximum out of pocket. Polly has another interview on Monday with the private company that took over her department. Better wage, uncertain on insurance cost. She would still be a manager, with more employees working under her. Polly may have an opportunity to transfer to a subsidiary of the company she currently works for. This, of course, would be the best course of action, but I am not convinced that Polly can physically do the work. It might be one of those “try it and see” kinds of jobs.

The short-term effects are brutal. In two weeks, Polly will no longer work for the company. On that day, her insurance benefits will cease. This means that the surgery I have scheduled at the University of Michigan is off. We will have to start paying for our prescriptions, office visits, bloodwork, etc. We will likely be eligible for some government assistance, but Polly has to be out of work before we can apply for it. Worse, years ago the company went from a weekly to a biweekly pay schedule. At the time, they advanced employees one check to cover the pay change. Of course, it was understood that this advance would be collected when the employee was no longer employed by the company. That payday has arrived.

Polly and I have weathered many crises in our almost forty-six years of marriage. I am sixty-six and Polly is sixty-five. We are grizzled veterans in this thing called “life.” We will weather this challenge too, although we may have to make serious cuts to our finances and standard of living. One thing being poor has taught us, we know how to do without. We know how to slash the budget and live on Aldi boxed macaroni and cheese. That said, we prefer to maintain our lifestyle without interruption. Unfortunately, no one asked what we wanted — so here we are.

Polly is brokenhearted over how the company treated her. She naively believed that if she did well by the company, they would do the same for her. As someone with a lot of experience in the business world — mainly in managerial positions — I knew better; that companies, when it comes to profitability and stock share prices, don’t give a shit about their employees. All that matters is the bottom line. Yea! for capitalism. Polly has only had three jobs in our forty-six years of marriage. She has no real-world experience with how companies operate and how employees are treated. I know better, having watched numerous businesses (and churches) shit all over me and other employees. Thus, I am angry. Livid over how Polly was treated; livid over their lack of regard for her as a person; livid over how the company caused us grief with nary a thought. I am sure her boss felt bad, but what else could he do? His boss, HR, and upper management said Polly and her fellow employees had to go. His job was to facilitate what his higher-ups wanted.

Some aspects of all of this could violate employment law, but age or sex discrimination is almost impossible to prove. As someone who has hired and fired hundreds of people, I know it is easy to hide your true motivations for dismissing someone. A bigger issue is that two of our children still work for the company. Raising hell over this would likely cause them problems, and we certainly don’t want to do that. So, it is time for Polly to move on . . .

Bruce Gerencser, 66, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 45 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

Connect with me on social media:

Your comments are welcome and appreciated. All first-time comments are moderated. Please read the commenting rules before commenting.

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.


  1. Avatar
    Karen the rock whisperer

    Oh, Bruce and Polly, I’m so sorry about this! These are the wages of capitalism: that as many humans as possible are treated as much like machines as possible. I hope the bumpy ride smooths out and Polly finds a job that’s AT LEAST equally as good.

  2. Avatar

    Polly and Bruce, I’m so sorry this is happening. It is a thing most of us find looming in the periphery of our jobs all the time. We are each just an entry in the liability side of the corporate spreadsheet, when the people above us can or have to get rid of us to save themselves or keep lining their own pockets, they will, and without looking back. Adding insult to injury by not offering any severence and taking steps to prevent those cut from collecting unemployment is just cruel.
    Your family is in our thoughts.

  3. Avatar

    Bruce and Polly, I’m so sorry. That’s painful to read having myself been fired from a job I was committed to. It is said Corporations have no hearts, guts, or brains. Their accountants fulfill those functions.
    In our Capitalist system, Corporations are people and employees are something less. I had many jobs I hated before landing one I liked and planned to do till I retired. Then I got fired without cause. Every job I took after that I considered temporary. I never trusted an employer again. I enrolled in law school so I could be my own boss and hopefully help people. I was a resilient 36 years old then and I survived it. I cringe to think about getting fired in my sixties after so many years at one job. That employer most likely has all their bases covered as far as any possible recourse. As for the medical coverage, please look into Medicaid. It is easier to get than you may think. You don’t have to be over 65 or destitute. One of my Nephews owns a section of Ohio farmland which he rents out, yet managed to fit into the Medicaid guidelines when he came down with costly medical problems.. It’s a free medical insurance plan that many are eligible for and don’t know it. You may qualify too.

    • Avatar
      Yulya Sevelova

      That’s a good idea,Dutch Guy. I was going to mention that myself. Each state is different, but it’s worth the try. Also, to do like many of us over 65 are doing right now, is shopping for Medigap Insurance to supplement Medicare, because much of the time, Medicare Advantage plans deny care for referrals, depending on what is requested. I can’t help but notice that both parties have NOT tried to return America back to the living standards before Ronald Reagan, and the Powell Memo, from Lewis Powell Jr,a Nixon crony, is very significant right now. I suggest everyone download this document and print it out. People need to know what this is, because it’s the source of all this corporate abuse going on since 1981.

      • Avatar

        Medicare Advantage plans have been declared by some credible people in Government to be almost a racket and not the good deal they are advertised to be. One thing certain, Insurance Corporations don’t give stuff away. The difference between Medicare and Medicaid is no small thing. Medicaid apparently covers meds and pretty much everything else with no co-pays. Also there is no premiums with Medicaid. With Medicare you are out of pocket for quite a bit.

        Re: Bruce and Polly again, check out the COBRA, a law that allows folks with job related medical insurance to keep their insurance after leaving the job. You have to self pay but after a crisis is over you can bail out. I did that myself. I lost a job just when I was scheduled for a procedure. I paid for an extra month of coverage, I got the procedure, got it paid for, and then let the coverage drop.

  4. Avatar

    I’m sorry to hear this. I learned a long time ago that loyalty to a company means nothing. In the end, it’s all about the CEO’s getting their bonuses. I wish Polly and you the best for the future. ❤️

  5. Avatar
    John S.

    Bruce- I am sorry to hear about this. Yes, it is cruel on the part of this company to treat their employees this way. I understand the need to be financially solvent, but then offer severance packages, agree not to oppose unemployment, etc.
    I certainly understand the desire not to cause issues for your children. I do think based on what you described that a case can be made with the Ohio Civil Rights Commission that their conduct was discriminatory. It gets murkier though if firing your children would be an act of “retaliation”. I’m sure this company has an attorney that has told them exactly what to do.
    So for all the “yay Capitalism” folks out there- keep in mind this is why a lot of young people feel Socialism is a better way, not because they’re being “brain washed” in college.
    I hope Polly can find a decent job soon. I know that you will be her greatest encouragement, and you will persevere through this.

  6. Avatar
    Kathy Hughes

    I went through a similar experience too, I wish you and Polly the best and hope she is able to find another job soon. This is a perfect example of the stakeholder/glibertarian capitalism that is destroying the middle class and drives people to a charlatan like Trump.

  7. Avatar

    I just want to say, as someone in upper management at a company with insight as to how things are, I know. You’re right. While some in management may view employees as people who are valuable, others in management view people as “bodies” and refer to them that way. Owners and shareholders are interested in the bottom line as that’s what reigns supreme at the end of the day (quarter, fiscal year…). It’s really awful. I can shield “my” people to a large degree, but not all managers do that, and ultimately some things are out of a compassionate manager’s control.

    I am really sorry you are going through this. It sucks.

  8. Avatar
    Yulya Sevelova

    Bruce and Polly, I sure feel bad to hear this news ! It’s appalling, that’s the word that comes to mind. Supposedly, the Biden economy meant that these things would stop happening, as during the Reagan years,it happened all the time- downsizing/ outsourcing. And then the latest news about Dollar Tree stores closing. This store is such a lifesaver, especially for cleaning supplies, toilet paper, paper towels,etc. I get lots of grocery staples there as well. Kroger prices are just insane for those same things. ( Ralph’s, in So Cal) These stressors create meltdowns in society, you see more of this continually, and the smash- and- grab robberies don’t help. I never heard the term,” at- will state” before your article this morning. People in Ohio and other states with this law, must have a referendum to overturn it ! A petition must be started. California has ” no fault eviction laws” that result in homelessness, because landlords and corporations will evict tenants in order to renovate a building and raise rents, you don’t have to do anything wrong to be evicted. The California Apartment Association is fighting overturning this statute, no surprise there. All thanks to that damned Nixon and that Powell Memo!!🇺🇸💰💀

    • Avatar

      @Yulya Actually only about 30 Dollar Tree stores are closing, most are the Family Dollar stores that Dollar Tree that were foolishly purchased when Dollar Tree purchased the company.

  9. Avatar
    Steve Ruis

    Re “Polly is brokenhearted over how the company treated her. She naively believed that if she did well by the company, they would do the same for her.” You mean Polly had faith in the company? That, if she behaved as they demanded, her reward would come? I wonder where that morality play came from? It is clear that religion, right, wrong, real or not, was embraced by the religious and secular powers to be used to control the unwashed masses (you, me, Polly, etc.). Polly is not wrong in feeling sad, just guaranteed to.

    Religion is regarded by the common people as true, by the philosophers as false, and by the rulers as useful. —Seneca The Younger

  10. Avatar

    Bruce, not addressed, why isn’t Polly just retiring? It is possible to retire at 65 with 27 years (3 years would be zeroed out for benefits if she didn’t work somewhere else, though it sounds like she did work elsewhere.) Assuming retirement wouldn’t be enough, it does sound like she has a decent skillset. Either way best wishes.

    • Avatar
      Bruce Gerencser

      She did retire at age 65, but we need more income than that to meet our needs. The goal was to work full time through, say, summer, and then go part-time. Her being fired messed up our plan. 😢🤣

      • Avatar

        Work full time after retirement? I didn’t even know you could do that. (::taking notes::). One thing I was thinking, with the unemployment, at least in Michigan, the condition is to take any “suitable work”. If Polly is unable to physically perform the jobs offered, that isn’t “suitable work”. Though I doubt it’ll be much of an issue, I have faith in Polly finding a job quickly. (I’ll have my mom pray for her if you want)

        • Avatar
          Bruce Gerencser

          Polly’s full retirement age is 66 years, 6 months. She “retired” 18 months early when she turned 65 and started having Medicare Part A coverage.

          The work rules are convoluted to say the least. In 2024, the maximum she can make is $22, 320. If she goes over this amount she will have to payback $1 for every $2 benefits over the $22,320 limit. She will reach full retirement age in April 2025, so the $22, 320 max will not be an issue. After full retirement age, there is no income limit.

          Social Security office called today. Wanted to know why Polly was turning in paystubs every month. We thought she had to do that due to the $22,320 max. Nope. Social Security waits until you file your income tax return to adjust your benefit for wage overage. Of course, if Polly is $10,000 over, they will withhold her check until $5,000 is paid back.

          Leave it to the government to make what should be easy hard.

          • Avatar

            Yes, to complicate what should be simple, leave it to the Govt. An old guy I knew loved his job and worked into his seventies. He said SS started sending him his retirement checks though he never applied. If true that’s unusually efficient for the Feds. Cousins in Netherlands told me when they lost a job for whatever reason, at fault or not, unemployment checks start coming automatically without applying. Not so in the USA, huh? Get fired for cause here and you are on your own. That being said suitable employment that MUST be accepted tends to favor employees, here in CA anyway. A machinist can refuse a ditch digging job without losing unemployment comp. Job offers must be within an employee’s physical capability and skills.

  11. Avatar
    Barbara L. Jackson

    So sorry, Polly and Bruce. I have no answers. Somehow we need to create a society where people have basic rights but I do not know how to do this.

  12. Avatar

    So sorry, Polly and Bruce. It’s a cruel system and you don’t deserve this. Other commenters have offered suggestions and I hope a few of them are helpful. Message me on FB if you want to vent. You know who I am, and I’m a good listener.

  13. Avatar
    MJ Lisbeth

    This is awful but not surprising. You are absolutely right about age and sex discrimination: I was fired from a job on a phony pretext (“insubordination “) but I know it was about my age and gender discrimination. The lawyer I contacted told me that unless there is some record of someone saying that I was terminated for being transgender and of a certain age, such discrimination would be all but impossible to prove. And I’m in a state with some of the strongest protections.

    Bruce and Polly, you deserve so much better!

Want to Respond to Bruce? Fire Away! If You Are a First Time Commenter, Please Read the Comment Policy Located at the Top of the Page.

Discover more from The Life and Times of Bruce Gerencser

Subscribe now to keep reading and get access to the full archive.

Continue reading

Bruce Gerencser