Friday, February 06, 2009

Work For Hire

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored!" Like so many deities, I'm underemployed. Not under-worked, underemployed. There's a difference.

No matter when you were born, chances are you were on the forefront of some social movement (for better or worse). I have been on the forefront of two.

The first was computer use. When I was a salaried employee at a publishing house back in the mid-1980s, I remember the day when they rolled in the very first word processor. I was the first one to sit down and use it. For a long time it was mine all mine.

The second social change that has influenced my life was the push toward using contract employees instead of salaried workers. I've been an independent contractor since 1987. This was only possible because my husband is a salaried employee at a struggling, but still viable, firm.

If you've never been a contract employee, you probably have great knees. Why? Because contract employees always have to get down on their knees and beg for the check for services rendered.

If I had all the time back that I've spent trying to chase down paychecks, I would have me one hell of a free weekend. Especially in freelance writing, your editor wants the copy on deadline, but he's coldly indifferent to your need for timely compensation.

I worked as an independent contractor for ESPN for two years. And every time I mention it, people say, "Why did you ever leave? Wasn't it a great job?"

Hell no. It was a crappy job. Ridiculous deadlines, keeping me up until 2:00 a.m., 14-hour days five days in a row ... and then ... the check didn't come. Months would pass, and no payment. The payroll guy would never pick up his phone, and if he did he would say, "I never got the invoice." Then he would dodge further phone calls.

This is no way to live. Just ask any bored god who used to get nice fatted calves or whatever, and who now lives on the few and far-between coins tossed in a sacred spring.

The primary reason I sought employment outside the writing world was that I wanted reliable checks that came on the 15th and 30th of the month. So now I'm with the federal government, and guess what? No checkee. I'm now re-engaging the bended knee to a new payroll clerk.

If you get a regular payroll check, I want you to take the next one you get and kiss the print off it. And if you get direct deposit, kiss the bank machine that reveals your paycheck-enhanced balance. Trust me, it's tough as all get-out to run a family budget when the check is always in the mail and never in the mailbox.

I'm Anne Johnson, and I approved this rant.


sageweb said...

I can't imagine the pain in your tummy waiting for the money..that would drive me nuts...cept I think we all are about the experience this very soon.

Anne Johnson said...

It's the dirty little secret behind my girlish figure, that's for sure.

Pom said...

I had that problem doing day care briefly. I actually had to turn someone over to collection. Contracts mean everything if you're independent - that much I know.

I do know what it's like to have a salary. Though with my husband's job there's also been no raises for going on 3 years.

I hope things turn around soon for you.

Lisa said...

I was also at the forefront of the computer revolution, and now everyday i struggle to keep up.
Most of the work i do is on a donation basis and i have found that when it comes to money, people are aften over generous or so tight its unbeleivable- still, i wouldnt want to go back to salaried work if i can continue to avoid it.
being micro managed, time clocked, toilet break checked is not my idea of a girls day out !!
Lisa x

Anne Johnson said...

Good point, Lisa. All of life is a trade-off.

Alex Pendragon said...

I don't do salary. I do per hour, and you damn well better have a paycheck ready for me on payday or you have ME in your face till you do.

DDD said...

That word processor:
I recall its arrival
Office noise was Les.

Anne Johnson said...


Les was busy decorating the Xmas tree with peanut butter sandwiches.

yellowdog granny said...

my mother always told me...the squeaky wheel gets oiled first.
in other words i'd be yelling and screaming until they would make sure i got the check every 2 weeks just so they wouldn't have to see me again...try it..

Servitor Lucem said...

As far as I know, all the per diems here refer to ESPN as "Extremely Slow-Paying Network."
Honestly, I don't know why anyone would take work from them. One or two days of having no one show up, and I'd bet their payroll department gets the fear in 'em.

Another thing that might work (and doesn't take a lot of money) is to file an action for theft of services. That usually means that *someone* from the offending outfit has to appear in court, and if you have submitted invoices via certified mail with a return receipt, you've got 'em. Didn't get the invoice? If you've got a receipt, the judge can usually persuade them to change their story. Judges can be *very* persuasive, and lying in court is a no-no. by the way, theft of services charges get them to *criminal* court, not civil, and there's no backing out of that. There's not a lot of delaying, and there's no default judgment anyone would consider taking instead of making good. Just a thought.