‘Given any opportunity this company would let go of me— because I don’t matter to them’

Te’Sean Adams, a former shipping clerk, talks to Work Shift about being an expendable ‘essential’ worker. His story is part of a series looking at the pandemic’s impact on individual Americans.

Te’Sean Adams, 22, worked as a shipping clerk at UTC Technologies in Colorado Springs for the past two years. In September, he quit to go back to college and reenter the workforce in a completely different field. His story is the second in an occasional Work Shift series talking to everyday Americans about the impact of the pandemic on their education and career plans. 

Read on to hear Te’Sean’s story in his words.

I’d spent one and a half, two years boxing and palletizing shipments of aircraft seating and aftermarket parts meant to be shipped that same day. I found it so hard to be happy there. There was always a new face, a new manager, a new leadership team that got promoted to a position they weren’t qualified for.

At least things were a little bit more serious back then, but there were a lot more people there too.

In the summer of 2020 the company fired 90, 100 people, more than they had to to make sure they didn’t have to do a second round of firing people. About half of the people who didn’t get fired were sent to work remote, so there was a sense like people had lost hope, people didn’t really care too much, they were just happy they had a job and that their source of comfort wasn’t gone.

Since the aircraft industry took one of the biggest hits during the pandemic, we were doing about 40 percent of the work that we normally would have been. If I went from packaging 60 large ticket items a day, I then transitioned to about 30 a week. My schedule went from guaranteed 50 hours a week to 40, some days even less than that.

You could see a lot of the rules and standards that people held themselves to kind of disintegrate with the change in workload. The business just couldn’t produce, and it couldn’t keep up with the amount of people working there. 

At the height of COVID I got furloughed. All of the supervisors in the plant printed out instructions on how to apply for unemployment and make sure that you got the maximum amount of benefits you could, but it was frustrating having to be on unemployment when I had a “full time” job.

I had to DoorDash every day during the pandemic. Thankfully DoorDashing was extremely lucrative because of the social distancing, because of the self isolation. There were instances in which you would get four orders for about 20 bucks within an hour, hour and a half because not only was DoorDash giving basically what was hazard pay, people were tipping more because they valued the service at the time.

At work there was no need for us to really do anything. Sometimes I worked three days a week and spent entire weeks sweeping floors.

Obviously the company just wanted to try and keep as much profit as possible…I knew that given the opportunity, I would be let go or I would be replaced because of a blip on the company’s radar. 

UTC Technologies was a Fortune 50 company, Fortune 100 company now. Even during the pandemic, the company had the income to keep the people who were keeping it functioning afloat.

After the lockdown, work stayed slow. It almost felt like a lot of us really couldn’t be touched because now that there is the worker shortage they can’t find people to replace anyone. They can’t find people to fill the positions that they needed to back when they fired 80, 90, 100 people.

But even after the lockdown, nothing changed.

I think that the pandemic made me want for certain security that I believed money could provide, but there was a lot of “I will say this because I’m your boss, not because I understand what you’re doing and or not because I’ve done what you’re doing or I’ve I have the knowledge of what you’re doing. Just because I like it this way,” and I did not enjoy that.

I realized the structure of the “the rat race’” is detrimental to society, and detrimental to my own mental health. I was about to spend the rest of my life doing something that I didn’t believe in knowing that given any opportunity this company would let go of me—because I don’t matter to them. Company loyalty doesn’t matter anymore.

Before I left the company, I found out that they had hired someone else but no one was there to train him because I was the only person who knew how to do my job. The same thing happened with a coworker that I had before. He was the only one who could start and stop inventory management, no one else knows how to do that stuff. So I’m sure that they’ll be working on how to figure out what he does and what I do for the foreseeable future.

Yeah, the pandemic proved that financial stability is a pretty big deal, but I believe I want to actually live a life that I’d be proud of. Going back to school to teach music, playing music, being secure in my finances. That’s my new idea of a life that’s fulfilled.

Danielle Whitaker is a junior mass communications major at Colorado State University Pueblo who produced this story through a micro-internship with Work Shift.

Related Posts
Read More

Community college enrollment is looking flat this fall

With a number of states—Colorado, Michigan, and Mississippi—reporting fall enrollment, the general trend appears flat. That’s in line with what the American Association of Community Colleges is hearing, and it raises questions about whether the country will actually see a surge in workforce training.
Download the Work Shift Guide to Understanding New Collar Apprenticeships