CHAPTER SIX HUNDRED and THIRTEEN
Sunday night — 9:59 p.m.
“Okay,” Aden Norsen said as he stepped out in front of the large gathering of employees who owned a part of Lipson Construction. He held the microphone to the cloth mask over his mouth and nose. “I just got off the phone with the governor.”
The talking, whispering, and general conversation stopped. Aden looked out into the audience. Over the last year or so, Celia Marlowe Lipson’s weird and diverse company had become more and more segregated on racial lines. There was a section filled with mostly white people. Most of the black men were standing at the back of the auditorium while black women were intermixed with the people whose ancestors hailed from Latin America — either five years ago or a hundred.
There had been a big fight at the door over wearing facial masks. Delphie, Jill, Heather, Tanesha, and Sandy had franticly sewed a mountain of masks. Through sheer force of will, they got everyone inside the auditorium with a mask on.
“According to the governor, we are designated ‘essential,’” Aden said.
The entire auditorium broke into loud cheers and claps. Aden raised his hands to try to get people’s attention. Tres stuck his fingers under his mask to make a loud whistle. People fell silent again.
“He said that we are only ‘essential’ on the projects we are doing for the state,” Aden said.
People started yelling. Aden looked out to see rage roil over as employees fought against each other for the first time since the company’s creation. The Site Managers stood up to help get people to settle down.
“Listen, it’s late,” Sam Lipson said, stepping forward. His voice was louder than any mask could contain.“Give us a chance to get through everything we know before you start yelling.”
He wielded his status as the founder like a club. It took a while, but eventually everyone was nodding in agreement.
“Good,” Sam said. “Aden?”
“Tres?” Aden nodded to Tres Sierra, their CFO.
Tres took the microphone from Aden.
“We have three sites that are already in progress,” Tres said. “We have two others that are fully funded but the funds not released. We asked the governor and he agreed that he would work to release those funds. We’ve won another three bids but they haven’t been budgeted yet. They were for next year or possibly the following year. The governor said that there was a lot of competition for money not already allocated. With unknown costs of the pandemic, it’s unlikely that we’ll be able to start. Unlikely is not impossible, so we’ll see. The state has a lot of expenses in getting the hospitals up and running — PPE and the like, ventilators, you know.”
“Tell them what that means?” Sam asked. “These men and women are afraid for their jobs! You have to tell them what that means.”
“What does that mean?” Tres asked. “Without getting too far into it, it means that tomorrow, we have to close fifteen sites and work three.”
He looked out to see if anyone would respond.
“Jake, Blane, and Sam have agreed to pitch in to get the other two sites up and running when the funds are released,” Tres said. “But, we need to do things the way we usually do. We need to get our people out to the sites to determine what we need, to set up our systems, before we can get started. It won’t be easy or fast.”
He looked out at the crowd. The employee-owners looked angry and more than a little scared.
“We’ve come up with two of solutions,” Tres said. “We need to pick one.”
He looked out at the employees and then glanced at Aden. Aden gave him a nod.
“Okay, the first is to lay off all of the people we no longer need,” Tres said.
The crowd erupted with rage. It took Sam, Aden, Blane, Tres, and Jacob to get the crowd to settle down. Every time people seemed calm, someone would erupt with rage and the entire crowd of men and women were yelling again.
Denver Cereal continues tomorrow…
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