Recently, a national franchise notified Chinook that they were going to have to lay off two local supported employees due to “corporate streamlining”. These two employees had worked for this business for 7 years and 4 years and did not have any documented performance issues. Repeated attempts to save these jobs at the local level were unsuccessful as the manager said it was a corporate decision. A staff member at Chinook decided to contact the corporate headquarters directly and ask about the rationale for this decision. While doing so, this staff member also contacted the Community Employment Alliance (CEA), the state association of vocational vendors, to see if there were any similar actions occurring within this business in other locations around the state. As it turned out, there were a number of very similar stories from different supported employment vendors and the e-mails started pouring in from all over the state of Washington.
As people came together on this issue, a letter was composed and delivered to the business’ corporate headquarters. The letter questioned this decision but stayed positive in nature, praising the business for its historical support of employees with disabilities, while simultaneously telling brief stories of individual people who were targeted to lose their jobs.
One day after this letter was delivered, Chinook was notified by the local manager that both jobs that had been targeted for elimination were being reinstated, and CEA was notified that the corporation had reversed itself and would not cut any of the positions around the state.
This is certainly a story with a happy ending and also one that hopefully underscores a couple of important points in our field. One, don’t ever be afraid to ask “why” when decisions are being made that do not seem right and two, when there is an advocacy issue at stake, there is an enormous strength in numbers! Collectively, people working together can do a lot more then people working alone.