This is a long post, but I need feedback. Please!

“I get no respect” is a tagline that we have heard from the great Rodney Dangerfield since he hit the scene in the 1950s. And that is what I feel like everyday when I go to work. Let me give you a little background before I show you an exchange of a raise request on my part, and the rebuttal from the company in which I feel shit all over me so bad, that I still haven’t stopped thinking about it almost two years later.

Artco Casket Company headquarters are in Kansas City, Missouri. They do not have a feel for what is going on in any of their seven locations, especially Chicago. Here’s an example; our Chicago office had three drivers and a manager when I first started working there. As we began to see a rise in business, they decided to bring on another employee, Juan, which happened to become a good friend of mine. After 6 months of the four of us working on things, they decided to add another employee, Chris, to the mix. Giving us five drivers and a manager. It was nice to have that kind of flexibility during the week as things can be unpredictable in the world of death and caskets.

Juan, within the first year and a half of working was diagnosed and had surgery for a tumor on his brain affecting his optic nerve, rendering him damn near visionless, and hasn’t been back to work since the diagnosis, and for obvious reasons.This place is so cold and unfriendly, I’m pretty sure no one cared that Juan had to leave due to health reasons. They are really awful people. 

Chris was there to fill in for Juan and still give us the flexibility we needed to handle the daily load, or so we thought. See Chris brought a carefree attitude to the company, but no work ethic whatsoever. As a matter of fact, It got to the point that i was documenting reasons why  my boss should get rid of him and bring in another, more adept worker. For instance, he called off thirty-two times in his first year. That is a wee bit excessive, if you ask me. He would take hours upon hours longer to make regular deliveries, that any of the other employees would have done in about an hour. His justification was, “the dead aren’t going anywhere.”  Well, he never accounted for prep work and time that needed to take place at the funeral homes we serviced. He also used the “traffic was awful” excuse everyday, even though we have GPS on the vehicles and saw that he was sitting in random spots for hours at a time, not moving, and nowhere near a Funeral Home.

I brought all of this to the attention of my supervisor and they said that they weren’t going to do anything about it at this time.  I didn’t understand, a poor worker is a poor worker. My mind was blown. Especially since I was the one picking up the slack for both employees. It was a crock of bullshit.

Anyway, when I realised the amount of work I was doing and not being compensated for, I decided to ask for a raise. Before you ask, yes, I realize that the amount I asked for was a lot, but I was doing the job of three men. AND, when you are negotiating a raise request, you don’t 

shoot for the ceiling and hope for the basement. Here are my request and the rebuttal:

Request:

Good Morning! 

I am writing to you today to ask for an increase in my hourly rate, plus hazardous pay during this pandemic due to my essential personnel status.

As of October 16th, I will have been here for three years. I have stayed late pretty much whenever asked, made trips to our southern region almost daily (360 miles plus on most days) and during snow storms that shouldn’t have had anyone on the road. I take on managerial responsibilities one Saturday a month (sometimes twice) checking phone orders, making delivery tickets, adding the information to our sales logs. I have to make judgment calls on the fly, just like the manager I answer to. I make my deliveries in a safe and timely fashion. My attendance has been reliable for the duration. I have helped pick up the slack when others have been unavailable.

When I originally applied for the position, I asked Doug what the starting wage was because I was debating between two jobs. He told me, “he anticipated it to be around $18 an hr.” So, I joined the team. Almost three years later, I’m not where he thought my starting wage would/should be. 

Because of the former, I believe a wage increase of $6 per hour would be fair, all things considered.

Also, during this pandemic, I constantly have to put myself at risk for Artco Casket to stay the course and provide the same service our customers have grown accustomed to. Many of the funeral home employees I deal with on a daily basis have been in direct contact with those infected, let alone dealing with the people that are out when they shouldn’t be, or when filling-up at the gas station, and touching of shared surfaces during these uncertain times, etc… I want to help keep up the standard Artco has made their customers come to expect, but feel that all of us should be compensated accordingly. In addition, I feel a hazard pay of some sort, in addition to my hourly rate would also be appropriate. 

I appreciate your time and consideration on these matters and look forward to hearing from the powers that be as soon as possible.

Be well,

Joshua

Rebuttal:

Josh Catlow :

Greetings to you from Artco’s Kansas City Home Office!

I’m Keith Sevedge.  I work here.  One of my Artco duties is helping DC Managers direct activity at their Centers when a helping hand is needed on employment and labor matters.  That explains my involvement with this message to you. 

Permit complete candor here : your April 3 missal forwarded by Nate Kubica to Jen Swisher and me has created quite a stir in the corporation’s headquarters.  Amongst the multiple reactions it has drawn in nearly four weeks since its delivery here, it reinforces the vitality of Artco’s “Open Door” Management Policy – which seeks to cultivate unfettered input from all Company personnel directly to its Executive Officers whenever fitting – for which reminder I wish to express my personal gratitude! 

There has been considerable internal debate about the “best method” for a formal Artco response, lest we appear indifferent to your referenced concerns or not especially diplomatic with a response.  Here again, I advocate complete candor;  you may not agree with what the Company’s decision-makers view as “the unvarnished truth,” but there’s no real benefit to be gained from any “spin doctoring” here in response to your request.  I share this as a frank prelude to this notification that your requests for an increase in your hourly pay rate and for receipt of “hazard pay” have been very deliberately considered from a wide range of perspectives before being denied.

I’m not going to offer much by way of argument to the claims you assert to support your request.  Let’s just say that reasonable minds may reach differing conclusions from examination of the same sets of facts, especially when viewed from differing perspectives.  I’m not interested in taking issue with your obvious personal beliefs about the merit and “market value” of the work you perform.  We value your workplace contributions greatly, too;  our assessment of their relative worth just happens to deviate from yours.

Without seeking to persuade you from your expressed beliefs which you believe support your requests, let me offer a summary recap of Artco’s four basic considerations which prompt their denial.

ONE  :  ASSESSMENT FROM THE COMPANY PAYROLL PERSPECTIVE.  Pay rates for Artco personnel aren’t random.  They represent the byproduct of very systematic application of standards to specific factual considerations, which are truly “global” in their reach and nature.  I’d ask you to think of the entire Company’s nine DCs, and the personnel who staff them, as a broad spider web housing nine different spiders and their “families” in a fashion that’s all tied together for purposes of illustrating the Company’s viewpoint.  I can tell you, from very earnest assessment of Service Representative pay rates across the entire organization, that your wage rate currently proves directly reflective of your role, your job performance and your tenure within the Company’s Service Representatives.  Distinguishing your wage rate from its current “proper fit” across those standards by elevating it at all defies that spider web’s intricate structure, while inflicting damage to the Chicago DC’s budget and the health of the Company’s overall financial picture.  While I’ve no doubt that you are convinced that you are “worth what you’re asking,” I’m here to tell you that’s actually grossly untrue when the claim’s evaluated within the context of the Company’s entire framework of Distribution Center personnel.

       Let’s place the shoe on the other foot, and see what you think about that.  Suppose, hypothetically, Nate needs to replace one of your coworkers this summer.  Suppose there’s an “ideal” applicant for the opening who has been driving the western “hub” distribution routes OTR for Matthews International Corporation’s distribution network between Matthews-Aurora DCs and supply warehouses for several years, and whose family is relocating to Chicago to accommodate a spouse’s job change.  Suppose that this candidate, equipped with a Class A CDL, has been earning in excess of $31.00 per hour when translating an OTR trucker’s “per mile” compensation rate to gross hourly wages.  While there’s casket handling experience in place, and while the CDL doesn’t just qualify the driver but – for an Artco Service Representative position – actually “over-qualifies” the driver, how do you feel about some “free agent” coming in to the DC without a minute of Service Representative experience and with no Artco tenure at all being hired for significantly more than any incumbent Service Representative who started the year already in Artco’s employ?  If you tell me you’re “okay” with it as long as the Company adjusts the wage rate for you and your coworkers there in Chicago to “equalize” matters, I’m telling you that the Chicago DC would go immediately from being a “break even” proposition to being a financial anvil in the span of less than a single calendar year by adjusting Service Rep wages along those lines in conjunction with that single hypothetical new hire. 

While I don’t expect our “rank and file” personnel to pay those considerations much mind, you do need to understand when making this sort of request that the corporate “big picture” turns on preservation of operating income against annually increasing expenses associated with DC operations – so it can’t be viewed as simply as, “I think I’m worth $31 per hour because this other guy can go out and make that on the open market with his credentials, and I already perform the same role the Company just offered to him.”  It doesn’t work that way, Josh, in the job market or from a financial analysis perspective.  There’s a very deliberate prevailing wage structure in place for the Company’s Service Representatives as a whole, and your request inflicts serious violence to that structure from every conceivable corporate payroll point-of-view.

TWO  :  ASSESSMENT FROM THE PERSONAL PAYROLL PERSPECTIVE.  Since your hire thirty months ago, your wage rate has increased by 16.6%.  By contrast, the compounded rate of Consumer Price Index-based growth for Artco wage earners during that same interval of time has been 6.059% — meaning that you’ve seen in excess of ten and one-half percent greater wage growth during your brief tenure with the Company than your more tenured coworkers have experienced.  You now request an additional increase of 34.3% in your base wage rate. 

No employer’s taking such a lavish approach with increasing hourly wages at this moment, and I can’t identify any who were so generous before the pandemic’s onset.  You currently perform as a driver/warehouse worker without a CDL.  Those positions in the Chicago marketplace at year’s end (which I cite as evidence only because the job market has been cratered by the COVID-19 pandemic) were bringing a range of wages from $14.50 through $17.15 per hour according to the data we’ve been able to access about the Chicago job market from reputable sources – and your wage rate already exceeds the top end of that range. In the face of all these numbers, Josh, your request seems so unreasonable that it’s a real challenge for Senior Management to treat it seriously with Artco’s response. 

There’s no Service Representative in Artco history who has come remotely close to the total 56.6% earnings boost over the opening thirty months of employment that you’ve now requested – and, with all due respect, there’s nothing about your job performance in the role that says you should be singled out in such a way ahead of other peers and colleagues who’ve been every bit as diligent and devoted to advancing the Company’s cause since you started work here in October of 2017, let alone placing you ahead of every single Service Representative in Artco’s sixty-eight year history as its all-time historic performance — and earnings – curve setter.

THREE  :  ASSESSMENT OF THE ASSERTED BELIEF THAT “HAZARD PAY” IS WARRANTED FOR ARTCO SERVICE REPRESENTATIVES.  Having visited this topic at the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic during March, and rejecting the notion then that some extra “hazard pay” might be legitimately warranted for Artco Service Representatives, I’ll just flat-out tell you that you’ve asserted nothing new by way of argument to prompt any different decision now by the Company.  While respecting your entitlement to your belief on this topic, ownership and senior management devoted abundant due diligence to it during the previous two months as the pandemic unfolded, and developed a completely different opinion. Their opinion – which has been fully informed by federal and state legal and safety considerations — will continue to control the matter for Artco.

FOUR  :  ASSESSMENT OF THE ASSERTED SUPPORT FOR YOUR CLAIMS.  The factual contentions offered by your April 3 message as arguments which supposedly support your claims for higher wages and “hazard pay” have been afforded very serious consideration and, in several instances, additional research or investigation to corroborate or refute the claims you’re asserting in conjunction with the evidence presented by your HR files (most of which was gathered on other folks’ previous watch).  Without detailing my thoughts or those of my Senior Management colleagues here in a “point-by-point” rebuttal narrative — which we appreciate wouldn’t be especially well-received from your personal perspective — suffice it to say that the Company’s not convinced by any of your offered arguments to adjust anything about your compensation or your working conditions at this time.

Having devoted an inordinate volume of time and attention to your request, and having evaluated it from multiple differing perspectives, the Company’s belief would be that – in spite of your apparent difference of opinion on the topic – your current rate of pay is precisely in keeping with your role, your performance and your tenure with Artco, and that your request for “hazard pay” runs contrary to the determination already made by the Company.  Accordingly, these advanced requests are both being denied on the heels of their extensive evaluation.

One of my colleagues continues pointing out that you have been – and remain – eligible at any time since your initial employment date for a $1.00 per hour wage increase by earning your Class B CDL credential.  You’re encouraged to explore this standing opportunity for an assured wage increase in light of the fact that your base wage presents the concern reflected by your message.

I regret, Josh, that we’ll simply have to agree to disagree on these topics.  As I noted earlier, the Company ascribes value to its “Open Door” policy, remains committed to its preservation despite the rejection of your requests at this time, and encourages you to utilize it again when you deem it appropriate. 

On Artco’s behalf, I thank you for your candid input.  I’m hoping that our comparable candor, while not supplying the answers you sought, can be comparably appreciated.

Thank you for your inquiries, and for your enduring efforts on Artco’s behalf!

–Keith Sevedge / ARTCO CASKET COMPANY

So, I ask you folks out there, what are your thoughts on how this was handled?

One Love.

Joshua

4 thoughts on “This is a long post, but I need feedback. Please!

  1. Teachers generally negotiate wages via our union, so we don’t have this kind of pay discussion one on one w/ our employer. We have a negotiating team, as does the district. We have wage negotiations and separate those from other contract considerations, such as bus duty, which in my district secondary teachers did not have to perform. Thanks to the union teachers such as myself began receiving a longevity stipend several years ago, and because I have a MA, and credits far exceeding that, I retired at the top end of the scale. I say all this because in my long career, I simply wasn’t left to my own devices to have discussions about my compensation.

    Regarding your request for a $6 and hour raise, w/out written documentation saying what you were promised in your interview, you have no real proof. Second, I’m not convinced you made a strong argument absent that documentation. I taught rhetoric, so I’m looking at the exchange between you and your employer from that perspective. A $6 an hour wage increase for an hourly worker is huge. I think it was a mistake to put a dollar figure on your request. You might have gotten a more favorable response had you not requested a specific amount. You lidded off the people running the “head shed,” so you received a cogent, blunt response to your request, and it’s now in your file. You didn’t do yourself any favors, especially since you don’t have a CDL. Not having a CDL makes you less marketable as a driver, which I’m sure you know. In short, I’d advise against responding to Mr. Sevedge’s letter or requesting another raise until you earn a CDL. If you decide to reiterate your argument, the next piece of paper you receive may be pink.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Hmm, definitely not the answer I wanted to hear. Regardless of the amount I asked for, he treated me with such a disrespectful response when “we don’t have it in the cards right now” would have sufficed. I see your technical points, but from a human aspect, he was an unnecessary asshole.

      Like

  2. Like Glenda, I’ve never had to negotiate my salary. It was always available in writing and I knew exactly what courses I could take to increase my salary. I imagine negotiation and asking for a raise to be a very stressful experience!

    I do think it’s a bit of a weird response and I wonder why they wouldn’t call you to discuss it, either on the phone or via a video conference. It maybe have come off less harsh that way. And I wonder about a counter offer. He did remind you that you could have a guaranteed $1 raise, but that’s not really a counter offer. But at this point, I agree with Glenda – don’t respond!

    Like

  3. As with the others, I am a teacher who has her salary negotiated, so I have no idea how it works. I would have thought a phone discussion might have made more sense. Sorry that you were not heard in the way that you were hoping.

    Liked by 1 person

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