Right To Work?

Hurricane Ike caused a lot of damage to Southeast Texas. The island communities, such as Galveston, were hit particularly hard. Most of the island was wiped out and many have yet to return. Especially hard hit was the University of Texas Medical Branch, John Sealy hospital. It’s a huge service provider and a huge employer. Ike caused an estimated $710 million in damage to UTMB, putting John Sealy Hospital temporarily out of business and saddling the medical school with a $40 million monthly payroll that included many with no jobs to return to. The UT regents authorized the layoff of 3,800 employees two weeks ago to cut UTMB’s losses and the administration laid off 3,000 over a five-day period that ended Monday.

That sucks. But is reasonable and prudent. I really do feel sorry for the folks getting laid off, but if there is no operational facility (they cannot maintain hospital status in many categories because of the damage), the patient base is severly curtailed (the reduced number of folks on the island provide a smaller base and that base cannot fully use the impaired facility), and, more importantly, the income stream used to pay the employees is gone… well, cutbacks are inevitable. It appears as if the laid off workers are being given 60 days of pay… being paid until the January 19th end of the line. Now, some of those who received notices are pissed. Why? Because they have to… wait for it… keep working until the 19th of January. Those workers think it is unfair that they have to do work (the facility isn’t completely shut down) until the 19th while others do not. In addition, UTMB is completely restructuring the administration and staffing and offering re-application to those who were laid off.

I’m trying to wrap my head around all of this. UTMB doesn’t have the money to continue full staffing. It’s going to take a good bit to fix the nearly 3/4 of a billion dollars in damage to the facility and the UT regents are acting in a fiscally prudent manner with state/taxpayer money to mitigate losses. They follow all the employment rules and regulations and even establish a program for re-hiring folks as the facility emerges from damage. I somehow get the feeling that these workers and their union leaders want their employer to just continue paying them for not working. It wasn’t the worker’s fault that a hurricane hit. It wasn’t the worker’s fault that there isn’t enough resource to continue operation. I get the feeling that they want to continue getting paid full boat until the hospital is completely back on line. Umm, no. Apply for unemployment benefits and start looking for a new job. While you are looking for a new job, you can collect a check every two weeks… after your mandatory waiting period ends after your last paycheck (which will be January 19th; this in known as payment in lieu of notice). I think the max that you can collect is $378 per week.

Let’s say that I owned a small coffee shop on Galveston Island that had six employees. The shop got leveled by the hurricane and there’s nothing left of my business. I intend to rebuild, but for now, I have no customers and no way to serve them. I let my six employees go and tell them to come back and re-apply when I get the shop rebuilt. Is there some moral or legal code that says I have to continue paying those six employees until the shop is rebuilt and reopened? How is this any different from what happened to UTMB?


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