The job at Share took about six months to die.
In November of my third year there it came out that Share’s lease on the building we were working in would expire in January. No one knew what would happen next. There were a lot of rumours. Many employees thought the call center would close soon and management deliberately wasn’t telling anyone to keep a full staff up to the closing date. There was a rumour that the call center was relocating to Nova Scotia. There was a story that the owner of the building was a Mormon (Share shared the building with both an LDS church and an architectural firm) and wanted Share out because we called for liberal causes. This seemed plausible. It might be equally plausible though that the owner got sick of Share employees blocking the entryways to the other tenants during the frequent group cigarette breaks, or, in the warm weather, milling around in front of the building or doing drug deals in the adjacent parking lot.
As I mentioned, Share got a new CEO, a woman named Pam Pierson (the previous manger was called Susan Paine. My friend Kevin and I joked that all the CEO’s names had something to do with hurting people. Who would the next CEO be? Cathy Cutt, ? Sally Stabb, ? Nancy Knife ?, Kelly Kill ?, etc.) Pam gave an introductory speech. She probably meant well in her speech but she came off unintentionally sounding super elitist. She congratulated us on the great work we were doing, fund-raising for the “progressive causes I know you all care so much about”. She talked about her own career, the various companies she had worked for in climbing up the corporate ladder. She talked about how much she enjoyed horse back riding in New Zealand .Most of the callers at Share couldn’t even afford cars and Pam’s speech provided ammunition for sarcastic commentary over the next several months as conditions at Share grew increasingly worse.
To her credit Pam did try to dispel the rumours. Share had no plans to close the call center. They weren’t moving to Canada. It was true that the lease was running out but management was working very hard to find another place, we were assured.
Despite Pam’s speech after a two week hiatus the rumours started up again. There was a guy who worked at Share, I’ll call him Mike Kellman. Mike was an extremely nice guy. He had ad a catering business for many years. He had a daughter who was an out lesbian and he was very supportive of her. Mike both hated and feared management at Share. He analyzed Pam’s speech over and over. “Reading in between the lines,” he would say, “its obvious they actually are closing the call center”. I’m not exactly sure how he came to this conclusion. Other employees came to agree with him though. Share would close in December. Share would close in June. Pam’s speech was an elaborate ruse to keep the place fully staffed until the end. We weren’t going to be told the place was closing until the very last day. The call center would be moving to Canada after all. The call center would be moving to northern Maine. On and on.
There suddenly appeared little notices, printed on glossy, multi colored paper. These were entitled “Rumor of The Week”. They would be posted in prominent places all over the call center. It would recite the latest and wildest rumours currently going around and then discount them. These were replaced first every week and then twice a week. No one knew who had these printed up. People thought the memos were remarkably uncanny. Someone in upper management knew all the anti-management rumours. These of course reflected the mistrust and hatred of management that existed. It turned out that the “Rumour of the Week” memos were put out by Craig in his role as “change manager”. He was somehow able to pick up very rapidly on current employee moods.
Although I hated both the job and the company by then, even I thought the paranoia was a little extreme. I felt our CEO, Pam Pierson, despite her corporate narcissism and tunnel vision, meant well and was telling the truth. However. the rumours continued. Stories were passed around of the elitism and extreme snobbery of the new managerial team Pam brought in. The new HR director was a woman I’ll call “Cathy”. A butch lesbian. She was very nice to me. I wasn’t there but during one of the employee briefings she said how she wanted Share management to be anti-elitist. “Even is equal here at Share”. Cathy told the callers present how she tried to introduce herself to a caller. The caller (according to Cathy) said, “You shouldn’t talk to me, I’m just a caller”. Cathy’s came to her point . “We want to create a “culture of equality” here at Share”. This remark itself was resented. The employee rumours, the griping, and the paranoia, I think were products of the class divide. Most of the campaigns we called on by this time weren’t paying very much, meaning most callers weren’t making much money. The highest base pay was $12 an hour. Its expensive to live in the Boston area. Most of the callers were barely getting by. Upper management, just for having an MBA degree and connections, could walk into a 6 figure salary job, one in which they literally didn’t have to do very much, or so the rumours had it. There was also the contradiction that Share was supposedly a “progressive company” which raised money to make the world a better place but the management continued to treat people very badly. Another factor I think was that, underneath it all, many callers really hated the job but would never admit this. They took it out on anything else they could.
There were two union related fights, both connected to Pauline, the militant union rep I mentioned earlier. One day Pauline was heard (apparently by the receptionist) using the “f word” in the foyer/reception area of Share. The foyer was a sort of hangout space and normally it would not be unusual to use “foul language” there. This time though “clients”, that is representatives sent from one of the organizations Share called for, were present. This was embarrassing to Share. Pauline was fired. She had a good labor lawyer. She took her case to court and two weeks later she got her job back, plus compensation. She posted memos all over Share explaining what happened and how she got her job back and was “made whole”.
A few weeks after this, the union local at Share was notified that our union, the CWA, would no longer be able to represent us. Their fund for Share had been completely depleted. This was because of Pauline. Pauline had certification as a paralegal. As a union rep she filed a large number of complaints against management. I don’t know how many complaints she filed but it was considered a very high number. Each time a complaint was filed which went directly to the union lawyers it cost several thousand dollars. The head of the regional CWA local said they could no longer afford this. Share was effectively kicked out of the union. People passing by her would say, sarcastically, “Thanks, Pauline!” There was some tension for a while. A week after this news came out that our union had obtained an internal memo of CWA. It said something to the effect that the “wackos” at Share were unstable and overwrought and not worth representing.
There was a minor uproar within our union after these incidents. It was decided to affiliate with another union, the United Auto Workers (UAW) . Two women from the UAW came to Share and gave an “open house” in the break room and presented their case for joining the UAW. There was an election on whether to affiliate with the UAW and they won by a fairly wide margin. I wanted to get involved in union activism by this time and I started attending union meetings, after a long hiatus. Previously, in the CWA anyone who wanted to be a union steward could be one . Under UAW rules however there would have to be elections. Officially, according to UAW bylaws there would have to be an election for union reps no later than a month after affiliating with the UAW. Okay, I would wait.
In my previous post I mentioned the toxic atmosphere that prevailed among the Share management. Much toxicity also existed among the employees. There was always a huge amount of backbiting, gossiping, and petty power struggles. As much as possible I stayed out of this but sometimes it was impossible to completely stay aloof. There were several strange incidents I was forced to get involved in. This one especially sticks in my mind. Thursday was payday at Share.. One Thursday, so the ever active rumor mill had it, someone stole most of the paychecks. A box of Share paychecks was discovered behind a bank near an ATM machine in Central Square, an area in Cambridge two subway (or “T”) stops away. I know this story was true because the paychecks that week were a day later and this story was verified, unofficially, by several managers. Okay, one of the union reps was a woman named Ruth. I mentioned her earlier. She was one of the more militant union reps and she liked me. I would occasionally confide various personal things in my life to her. One day when I came in she asked if she could talk to me in private. She told me about the stolen paychecks incident. I knew this already. At that time there were two call rooms we would work in-we could choose which one to sit in. Room One was rowdy and noisy. Room Two was quieter. I usually used to work in Room Two. People were more serious about the job but on the other hand they were generally much more intellectual than those in Room One. Back to the story. Ruth told me that there was a rumour going around Room One that I had stolen the checks and I was under investigation. Ruth said that this was a widespread story-“everybody” was talking about this. Ruth told that the police are investigating and there was a good chance I would be questioned. She wanted me to be prepared.
This was a bizarre situation but it well represented the environment at Share. Earlier I mentioned my friend Kevin. I told him about this. A few days later Kevin was sitting next to the woman with severe OCD I mentioned earlier. There was an employee named Lou..He was very militant about the union and hated management. At the same time he was also an extreme right wing Republican. Lou had a reputation as a loud mouth. He seldom seemed to actually make calls. He would constantly discuss the union and how horrible management was. You could hear his voice booming across Room One where he supposedly worked (I agreed with much of his militancy actually but his personality was objectionable). Lou went over to the woman with OCD. He told her the story that I had stolen the checks and that the police were questioning me. Kevin overheard him. He got very upset at both those people. They apologized and quickly changed the subject. Later Kevin told me about this. I told Ruth. I’m not sure what happened after this but Lou , after not having said a word to me in over two years, was now very friendly. I have no idea if Lou was the one who had originated the rumors about me or was just repeating it. Either way, after being confronted, he presumably now didn’t want to be accused of libel.
Anxiety continued about the impending non-renewal of Share’s lease. Pam the CEO put out memos once a week detailing the continuing search for new accommodations. Rent is very experience in the Boston area. It appeared that Share would have to relocate further out from the city. Most callers didn’t believe Pam. People suspected this was part of an elaborate ruse. It was announced that Share was looking at a place in Central Square This would have been an ideal location. There are two cool bookstores in this area, a Goodwill and a Salvation Army store, other cheap clothing stores, cheap music stores, several coffee shops, the Harvest Coop, and zillions of restaurants and bars. Central Square was not to be however. it was announced that a place was finally found. It was in Newton, a Boston suburb some distance away. Newton has a reputation of being a very wealthy area. I’ve had several temp jobs in this area. There are two luxury golf courses (I did landscaping work on one several years earlier) and several large “gated communities”. (I visited these in the course of a delivery business I had for a short time.) Share was not moving to this area of Newton however. We would be moving to an industrial/blue collar section with the fine Algonquian name of “Nonantum”. People who had been there said it was in the middle of nowhere. The new call center was far away and a shuttle bus would be provided. Several “town meetings” at Share explaining all this were held. I attended these but I didn’t pay much attention to them. I spent the time talking about films with Gary, the film buff I mentioned earlier. Many of my co-workers were extremely nervous and anxious about the upcoming move, however. The “town meetings” were almost like a form of therapy for these people, it seemed.
There was a woman who worked in Share management called Robin Glazier. When I was first at Share Robin worked in HR. Later she got pregnant and took time off. For a period after that she would show up once in a while. No one quite knew what she did. It turned out she and her husband were very wealthy. Her husband was said to be the CEO of some corporation, I never found out which. Robin and her husband (who used a different surname) were major investors in Share. Robin herself was on the board of directors. She regarded herself as a social activist of some sort and her involvement in Share was her form of activism. As it came closer to the time for Share to move she started showing up more and more. She was now thought to be the main person actually running Share. Many callers thought the real reason Share was moving to the relatively remote and inaccessible Nonantum instead of Central Square was that it was closer to Robin’s house..
“If we have trouble getting home we can always crash out at RG’s house,” a lot of people joked. It turned out Robin Glazier’s house was actually two towns away. By this time the hatred of and paranoia towards management was growing to huge proportions. Many employees seemed obsessed about this. I did not like the job or the company myself, I could agree with much of the anger towards the company, but I felt I had more important things in my life. Share was just not that important to me. My attitude towards the company and my co-workers could be expressed as, ” You’re right but hey, get a life, guys!”
In January Share moved. It took three days. People were surprised at how fast it was accomplished.