For the laid off, it's 'a cruel world'

March 19, 1994|By Ross Hetrick | Ross Hetrick,Sun Staff Writer

When Joseph M. Schmidt wakes up these days from his mostly sleepless nights, he has to stop himself from thinking about going to work. That's because his job of 23 years at the Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. disappeared four months ago along with his peace of mind.

"It's totally devastating, its unreal," he said. "Everybody has a lousy feeling. You can't feel right. You think about what a cruel world this is."

Mr. Schmidt, 47, is part of the first layoff in BG&E's 178-year history. And like other affected workers, he's reeling from the loss of what he thought was a secure job.

"It was totally unfair," said Mr. Schmidt, whose distress comes tumbling out of his mouth in a jumble of words as he talks about the day he lost his job. "I was shocked, I was dumbfounded. My whole world collapsed."

As a clerk at the Wagner power plant, Mr. Schmidt was responsible for maintaining employee time records, ordering miscellaneous materials, and handling other paper work. He also maintained the plant's $2,500 petty cash account -- which, he notes with pride, was never found to be short.

But even though he received a year's worth of severance and is receiving unemployment compensation, he is gripped by the fear of becoming one of the homeless. "Employment out there is hopeless, hopeless," he said. "You could be homeless, and that's not right."

Mr. Schmidt is finding the job search far more difficult than when he last tested it in 1970. That's when he found employment with BG&E in two weeks after leaving the Air Force. Now, he has only found rejection after approaching 50 to 60 companies.

"It's nerve-racking, it's devastating . . . and everywhere I go, no jobs," he said.

Mary Molle worked for the utility for 14 years and five months. Now, she dreads the future.

"I'm scared," she said. "I'm afraid to spend too much money."

Job-hunting for the former clerk-typist has been especially difficult because of her age, 59.

"When I put my birth date on an application and the year I graduated from high school, it puts me out of the job market," she said. "I think my age is against me."

The Essex resident, who is separated from her husband and has three adult daughters, is trying to improve her chances by taking a course in medical terminology at a community college.

Mrs. Molle's position would be better had she worked seven more months for BG&E. That would have qualified her for an early retirement package that included a pension and medical benefits. Instead, she received 45 weeks of severance and is getting unemployment compensation.

*

Veronica D. Sharp missed BG&E's early retirement package requirement of 15 years of service by a mere month. She hoped that four weeks of accumulated vacation could be used to bridge the gap. "They said they would look into it, but the answer was 'no.' "

As a patrol and response officer, Mrs. Sharp, 60, answered burglar alarms at various BG&E facilities and monitored the performance of guards who work for a contracted security company.

When the company first announced it would reduce its work force, the Pasadena resident felt safe because of her consistently high employee ratings, including five hard-to-achieve "A" grades.

But this didn't stop the company from eliminating her job. "It wasn't what was done, it was the way it was done," she said. "It was not done very fairly."

Mrs. Sharp said she is cushioned from the full effect of the layoff by her husband's federal government pension. "I'm not going to lose my house or anything," she said. "But we are not living quite as comfortably as we did."

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