I got to work on Friday and got called into the Department Head’s office. I asked him if I was in trouble, and he went off in a little paean about how great I am and how little I deserve to be in trouble…and told me I was in trouble.

See, my position is Union-represented. Among the various benefits of this—which mostly affect the blue-collar Union-represented positions—and the costs of it—which mostly affect the white-collar positions like mine—is that, should a person be laid off from their job, she gets to look down a list of jobs with non-senior people in them, and just take one. “Bumping,” they call it.

So, Bush cuts the NIH budget—maybe this is trickle-down economics in action—and the next thing I know, someone laid off at another institute is taking my job. Nothing anyone can do about it. The left wing and the right wing of American politics have conspired to screw me over.

So tomorrow I get to meet with a Union representative so he can tell me my options—which, as I understand it, include taking any of several open positions on the Main Campus downtown (I will NEVER WORK DOWNTOWN AGAIN. And why couldn’t this laid-off woman take an OPEN position instead of a filled one?) or bumping some other person. I’m storing up a good supply of invective for the occasion. Here’s what I’m planning so far:

“I think this entire system is reprehensible. It ensures that pain and inconvenience are brought to the maximum number of people. I’m without a job, whoever is taking my position is going to be trying to fit herself into a position she is probably not well-suited for, and the institution, the scientists, and the research we are supposedly here for will all suffer. I will not condone or take advantage of a system which reduces people to interchangeable cogs in a machine.”

I’m not sure whether or not to add, “Take your bumping and shove it.”


You might also add “Bite my shiny metal ass.” Bonus points for being a pop-culture reference, offensive, AND relevant to your cogs in a machine argument!

blink The power of google informs me this is Futurama-related—I’ve only seen two eps of that ever, I think, so that explains my confusion.

Especially because I parse WWBD as ‘What would Buffy do?’ and since neither dying, banging vampires, or beating things up seems to address the issue, I was well and truly mystified.


That really sucks – it’s obvious to me how happy you are with this job, so it’s just not fair. That bumping rule seems sorely like something that cannot be in the interest of the Union members. It’s more like a device intended to instigate strife and fierce competition amongst them. Divide and conquer. It just makes no sense at all in the context of a Union, and on top of that, it seems entirely sociopathic that someone would actually invoke that rule.

However, if there’s nothing to be done about it, I merely hope that you will find a much better job, so at least the turmoil and agony of being layed off will prove to be a boon when all is said and done.

Thanks, GreyStork.

Indeed, the ‘bumping’ rule is ridiculous. It does actually make sense in the context of a Union where the rules are designed to benefit the most senior employees to the exclusion of all else, which is what we seem to have….

I have no first-hand experience with unions. However, this seems pretty natural to me as a thing that an American union might do. You see, unions here seem to be stuck in the unskilled-labor mentality in which seniority means more than actual skill. If your job is working an assembly line in the early 20th century, then you are really no different from any other warm body. The union, however, is best served by making its most influencial (most senior) members happy. So in the absence of a measurable difference between workers, seniority seems the best measure of worth.

Of course, office workers are not factory workers, but it is hard for a union to recognize those differences without stepping on some toes.

Well, even so, the bumping rule doesn’t have any legitimacy other than to allow some Union workers to harass other Union workers. I could understand it if a company employing a number of Union members were required to dismiss the most junior ones first if they were to lay off anyone. But the bumping of one Union member by another just doesn’t fit the bill when it comes to the spirit of a Union, which exists to protect the interests, and facilitate and encourage a sense of solidarity, amongst its members. Not by a long shot.

At long last, I identified a sci-fi-esque pop-culture reference when Faerye could not!


Two of the labs got together and got me a card and two dozen expquisite hot pink huge thriving fragrant adorable roses. I feel pampered and loved.

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