please stop tickling me

In which we laugh and laugh and laugh. And love. And drink.

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Location: Portland, Oregon

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Saturday, March 28, 2009

The Letter, part 2

A quick piece of background: when we left our narrator last time, he had run afoul of a violent piece of shit boss, who worked for a far more powerful piece of shit boss, lorded over by a husband-wife team, pieces of shit both.
Although I didn't delve into the personalities of John and Lucy Buchanan, I really should. They're incredible character studies, though in need of their own blog post; this one is long enough as it is.

I've said before that I've run three labor actions in my lifetime, two of them successfully. This is the one that didn't work. All three happened long before it ever occurred to me to join a union, and all were caused by employers who just failed to observe extant law. Do I think unions necessarily provide safeguards against this? My jury is out.

Funny thing about Rob Bearden; he influenced my writing in ways I hadn't considered until recently. He shows up in my fiction writing as pretty much any piece of shit savvy operator: "He smiled. He always smiled." Yup.
Even more so, whenever I meet people like him, I always make sure that they know I understand and appreciate their cunning. The fact that I'll never, ever trust them goes without saying, and therefore doesn't need to be said. I say so as a fellow Professional.

So back to the letter:

I suggested to interested parties with valid complaints that perhaps we should get together and discuss our grievances outside of work, off of museum property. Maybe even draw up a definitive list of complaints.
(The problem, of course, is that I was writing to an audience I couldn't necessarily gauge. So I didn't know how to frame arguments in a way they would find pleasing. If they saw it at all.)

As the time approached, I found myself considering that I was being asked by some to be a spokesperson of sorts, and that I wasn't really comfortable elucidating other people's problems. Especially the guards with legal reasons to fear reprisal for stepping forward. So I decided that it was everyone for themselves. Unfortunately, it had already been reported to Mike Sumpter that I was a "ringleader" of some nascent rebellion.
(And I knew who told him, too. That guy hated me because I had sex with his girlfriend long before he ever showed up. He really needed to grow the fuck up, and I told him so. Again, that's another story.)

Now, Mike and I had already tangled about appearance and job related issues. As far as appearance went, I was more than willing to comply, but he insisted on debating the reasons why one should look the way he felt we should. Many of the reasons were invalid to my mind, but again, I was willing to comply, and the fact that he kept bringing the subject up again and again felt much like harassment.
(Such drama over my habit of wearing nail polish, in those days. Really.)

There were also concerns of his regarding my job performance. This , coming from someone who seemed to be paid to smoke and talk on the phone (personal calls) for much of the day, this seemed a tad disingenuous. But I was willing to take his suggestions to heart. Again, he stayed after me for a week, restating his position, which I understood quite well the first time.
And again, in restating his opinion, he made a lot of what I would consider to be fallacious arguments, undermining much of what he had to say and confirming to me that I was merely being "rode" by my immediate supervisor.

(Who the potential audience for this letter could be, then or now, I couldn't tell you.)

So my identification as the "ringleader" of something potentially damaging to him must have seemed unsurprising. At this juncture, I was now beginning another solid week of harassment. This time, the charade I was asked to participate in, instead of doing my job, was extended debate about why I should not lose my job, what with me being the "ringleader" and all. I had it pointed out to me that complaint of any sort against one's employer, no matter how valid, was inappropriate, and reason for dismissal. I pointed out that this wasn't true in any legal sense, and furthermore had never been told such a thing at any other business or private organization I had worked for. This particular week went by slowly, as Mr. Sumpter seemed to have noticed my propensity for debate, and had decided (it felt) to argue me out of a job.
(I wrote all of this with Little G, who had just been fired by this asshole, looking over my shoulder.)

At the same time though, he was claiming to be my only protection against summary dismissal by Rob Bearden. On one hand, my appeals to Nolan Hibbard regarding Mike's behavior had been met with Nolan's usual response (which was, "Well, there's plenty of other jobs out there." True. But there are also laws on the books saying that if one is being harassed on the job, steps at least need to be taken to remedy it). So I knew that Mike essentially answered to a higher power in the museum structure.

Yet I strongly doubted that Rob Bearden devoted that much though to me in particular. Mike took pains to point out how much Mr. Bearden disliked me. I told him I suspected as much, but had never had any idea why. Again Mike asked, "Okay, what can I go next door and tell Rob so he won't fire you?"

I responded, "For one, that I am not the ringleader of anything. Second, even if I were, that is not adequate reason to fire me. And third, what does he expect from someone paid so little for so long, who is constantly being promised a raise if he only does one more little thing or two? No. I'm only now even within spitting distance of receiving the first cost-of-living increase I've seen in two years. I'm not leaving."

(This is more or less what was said, although I think what I said was far more brief. Along the lines of, "That I've done nothing that I can be fired for, that's why," or something.)

It was announced that the guards would be meeting with Rob Bearden the next week. Despite our obvious mutual dislike, Mike continued his pattern of long conversations with me while I was Duty Guard. I asked what Rob had to say about the guard force in general, and he replied that Mr. Bearden thought we were all crazy. I suppose so, if he only had Mike Sumpter's impressions to go on. He said, "I mean, I'm glad I'm not on a plane with all of you that crashes in the desert. The way you all complain about a little raise like this, you'd probably all (sit there and whine) in the sand, and I'd have to take a shovel and kill you all."
I replied that that's probably the
first thing he'd do anyway. The above is an example of how Mike chooses to view issues.

(He's hardly the only idiot I've met who does, of course. But this asshole was my boss. It was around this point that I started wondering if maybe more than just my job was being threatened.)

The meeting did not go well for the guards. In a nutshell, we were told that our raises were finally coming, in the next paycheck. We were also told that we would be expected to do a great deal more in order to "deserve" it. One guard, who is manic on the days when he's so depressed that he can't get out of bed, was put up to us as an example of the ideal guard.
(Larry also barely ever made it into work, but anyway...)

I attempted to express my concerns about Mike Sumpter's behavior to Rob Bearden, only to have him respond with unrelated material about appearance. I pointed out that he hadn't answered my question. He then dismissed the rest of what I'd said as "garbage". Mr. Bearden then emphasised the point that what Mike Sumpter said was not to be questioned...After what I have written above, it should be clear why some of us found this to be a less than comforting prospect.
Also broached was the legality of advertising a higher wage for guards than was actually being paid at the time. What we got back was evasion at best, and in one particularly uncomfortable moment, Mr. Bearden said he was "offended" by the implication that he was playing some sort of 'carrot and stick' game. I reflected to myself that I had never even heard that phrase until a year previous to this, at a similar meeting, where Rob described what we had to do to earn our upcoming raise (which never came), saying, "Okay, there's the carrot, now here's the stick."

(I love that.)

After this meeting, I called Rob Bearden twice, in order to receive a real answer to my question. To wit: did I really hear him say that everyone's job was subject to the whims of this rather unstable security chief? And furthermore, simply he felt I might have intended him harm, he saw fit to harass me for three weeks, and this was considered appropriate by the management? I never received a reply, which was all the reply I needed, of course.

After this comes an even longer laundry list of shady doings around the museum, all of them seemingly perpetuated by Rob Bearden's hires.

A couple of weeks later, I was fishing in the donation bin for coffee money (something everyone did, as the museum hadn't been donation-only for some time, and it was never clear where this money went), and was caught by Mike Sumpter. I was fired, as was the sixty-year-old guard who failed to stop me.

A week after that, Mike was accused of sexual harassment several times in the same week by the same guard, causing him to get fired. After this, I heard he was working security at a local mall.
I wish I could find the discussion thread I stumbled upon a few weeks ago. All the local news affiliates have terrible websites. But the discussion seemingly all was coming from people who actually knew the unlucky couple who had tased, beaten and pepper-sprayed the poor dude. There was lots of "...she was doin' just fine until she took up with that Mike..." type comments.

I note too that Rob is still chief of operations at the musee. Hm.

Pity I didn't attend his sentencing. I gladly would have been the voice from his past: tripped over your dick, didn't you, little man? BWAHH HAHH HAHH HAHH!!!
You know, but I didn't.



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