The Bottom Line

Today marks two years since the big L. That’s “L” as in layoff.

That’s right. Here’s some paperwork and the door. You are done. Effective immediately.

Never mind the wedding at the courthouse in 30 minutes. It’s the one I’d waited more than a year to photograph for my weekly photo column in the paper.

Never mind the awards and accolades I won for the company over the past five plus years.

Never mind how hard I worked. I still remember the night I finished an eight-hour plus shift only to come home and receive a call from an editor about a possible train-pedestrian fatality. I was back on the street within minutes and filed photographs on deadline for the next day’s front page.

None of it matters. In fact, nothing matters except the bottom line – as in the company’s bottom line.

For the past few years we’ve all heard about this glorious place called Fargo, North Dakota. It’s a city where a couple of special bubbles exist. First, we heard about the housing bubble. More recently, talk and media reports have focused on the unemployment bubble. Boy, you sure are lucky to live and work in Fargo. I’ve heard that comment – or something like it – from a lot of folks who don’t reside in the upper Midwest.

You betcha I’m lucky to live here, but I’m not immune from unemployment. I’m not exempt from layoffs just because I live in a place where the economy isn’t as bad as another place. I too collected unemployment, filed weekly eligibility reviews and navigated a bureaucratic process that is both humiliating and humbling.

I am not alone. The numbers assure me there are lots of folks dealing with layoffs, cuts, reduced hours, reduced wages, furloughs and other economic-based unpleasantness. Yes, even in this ice box of an on-the-verge-of-another-record-breaking-flood place unemployment and underemployment exist.

That’s what this – not just my this – but lots of folks’ this is all about. Someone else’s bottom line.

How many people in our community received The Letter and The Talk. Perhaps, your letter said as mine did, “Due to economic reasons, we are doing a reduction in workforce. Effective today, you are being laid off from … .” Perhaps, not.

I know it isn’t personal or about my performance as a worker. It’s about money. It’s about being profitable. However, it is also about my life, my livelihood and – as I’ve come to learn during the past 24 months – my identity.

Effective today, my colleague Sarah McCurdy, who also experienced the reality of her employer’s bottom line in 2009, and I announce The Bottom Line.

This bottom line is a documentary project. It seeks to tell the stories of 29 individuals whose employment in Fargo has been or is being impacted, reduced or eliminated due to economic reasons. Our intent is to give a face and voice to people in our community who know all too well about the bottom line. We believe a community conversation about the recession, recovery and economic realities is valuable and worthwhile. We believe stories about real people are important.

We invite anyone interested in submitting their story for consideration to complete an informational questionnaire and submit it by May 10. Copies of the questionnaire are also available in the lobby of 417 Main Ave. in downtown Fargo.

We encourage everyone to join us on facebook and spread the word about The Bottom Line.

If you have questions or comments, post them on The Bottom Line facebook page or email us at thebottomlinefargo [at] gmail [dot] com.

We believe these stories matter and deserve sharing.

Thanks for reading. – Ann