The Philadelphia Inquirer did a feature article on a man, age 68, who
was retiring from Unisys after 50 years of service. (He started with
Unisys precedessor Burroughs).
It's extremely rare today for someone to work 50 years for the same
corporation. In 1986 Unisys had 123,000 employees, now it has 36,400.
Only 15% of Americans 65 and over are still working and the average
person retiring today has been with his employer 10 years, not 50.
The man, Bill Brown, started out with Burroughs in 1955 as an errand
boy in Detroit. He went to college at night then designed adding
machine parts -- it took two weeks for two men to design the curves
for a cam, then computers cut the time to 18 hours.
After Burroughs and Univac merged he moved to Blue Bell PA. He said
the first 35 years were a lot of fun, but the last 15 were tougher
with the changes.
In the future, more workers will have to retire later because they
won't be able to afford to stop.
(for full article see www.philly.com "50 years at one firm").
Before divesture there were a great many long-time employees in the
Bell System. Probably quite a few 50 year ones who perhaps started
while in high school and stayed with the company their whole working
life, or kept working past 65.
Now seniority means nothing. I heard Verizon laid off a group of long
time employees without regard to seniority-- they just shut down a
particular sub-unit and fired everyone in it; many had started when it
was still Bell Telephone. Likewise AT&T let many long time employees
I know some consultants who have made a very great deal of money being
hired to clean up the mess companies made after doing the above. They
think their only eliminating 'fat' by these mass layoffs, but they're
actually getting rid of critically needed muscle. It hits the news
when sales drop dramatically and consumer groups file lawsuits over
How stupid are the managers who come up with and authorize these
actions? All they do is lose business; they don't save any money at
all. Were the managers so damn cynical they thought the whole
workforce was playing computer games or looking at porn all day long?
Unlike government, generally the idiotic miskakes of the private
sector -- that ruin people's lives by mass firings -- aren't widely
reported in the media. The stock market seems to applaud such moves.
[TELECOM Digest Editor's Note: One important reason companies do not
keep around 40-50 year employees any longer is because that employee's
benefits package is usually so extravagant. For example, I recall one
fellow who had worked for Standard Oil more than twenty years back in
the 1960's, when I was there. Working there that long, he was
entitled to five weeks paid vacation every year, and first choice of
the available times for vacation. He _always_ managed to parlay that
five week vacation into _six_ weeks by scheduling his vacation times
around weeks which had holidays in them, which entitled him to an
extra vacacation day. For example, vacation during the week which
contained Memorial Day, also the week which contained Independence Day
and Labor Day got him _three extra days_ right there. So he would then
take those three extra days vacation and either use them for the
Monday <-> Wednesday of Thanksgiving Week when the entire office got
two days (Thursday and Friday) off anyway. Or, depending on how the
calendar worked out that year, maybe he would take those three days
during Christmas/New Years week.
Needless to say, Standard Oil got quite annoyed at having to legally
pay him for not being there for large gaps of time. Eventually, they
had a whole bunch of people in that situation and of course, if you
can find an excuse for letting the person go, then you also have to
pay them for the _company's share_ of their 401-K plan or whatever,
_plus_ their severance pay, _plus_ their pension, etc. And there is
absolutely no reason a good supervisor cannot find an excuse -- _any_
lawful excuse will do, to can you if they wish to do so. That is one
reason most companies do not like to have employees around that long;
to their way of thinking, the person has gotten just to expensive for
And ditto with the telephone company over the years. I recall a
complaint I heard from a couple of very old, long term 'inside plant'
technicians who got laid off by Illinois Bell just a week or two prior
to some milestone for them (such as maybe reaching the point they were
entitled to that very coveted fifth week of vacation each year). This
was right around the time Wabash was cutting over to ESS, in 1974 or
thereabouts. They both said Bell was extremely secretive about the new
system. Although they both, by virtue of their longevity, had the run
of the whole inside plant, the frames, etc, Bell kept the area where
the computers for ESS were located totally 'off limits' with locked
doors, to most of the older guys. "The only guys allowed to go in that
area were the real young smart-alecks who knew something about
computers. Those of us who knew nothing about computers were _not_
allowed to go in that area at all." PAT]