Brett Fowkes invested in the American dream.
For 28 years, the Las Vegas architect worked hard, and worked even harder to save money. When he parted with his cash, he bought U.S. products, he said. Through the years, Fowkes stayed out of debt and even paid extra on his mortgage.
"Now, I'm out of work," said Fowkes, 47. "There are no jobs that pay any more than the unemployment check. My 401(k) will disappear in a year. ... I didn't cause this mess, yet we will pay for it for years. When will the managers of this country step up and face the problem head on?"
Hundreds of readers like Fowkes responded swiftly to a question posed by msnbc.com: Given the reeling economy, would workers take a 5 percent cut in pay to save jobs at their company? In contrast to a recent NBC-Wall Street Journal poll that found that two-thirds of those polled would take the cut, those who responded to msnbc.com were split.
Half who wrote in said pay cuts were necessary in a climate of profound financial uncertainty, but others shared Fowkes' sentiment: "What I can't understand is: Why do I have to pay for doing everything right?"
No, Fowkes will not take a pay cut, he said. He wants to work. Period.
"I have a family to support," he said "Now, I'm having to collect unemployment for the first time in my life and there's a long line behind me."
Todd Lowe of Lily, Ky., still has a job as an automotive engineer and doesn't want to lose it.
"Would I be willing to take a 5 percent pay cut to keep my job? You better believe it," Lowe wrote in. "Even a 25 percent cut in pay is better than being out of work. At least I would be able to pay my bills without relying on unemployment.
"The production schedules, in the manufacturing facility in which I am employed, have been reduced by more than 60 percent. I am proud to say our leadership saw it coming and made adjustment to avoid layoffs."
When asked about the mood in their workplaces, readers expressed relief at escaping layoffs, anxiety about what's to come, and downright bitterness and anger over the nation's economic turmoil.
"The mood here today is fear," said Rosemary Cheslock of Grand Rapids, Mich. "Many of our employees have spouses who work at the Big Three or a supplier. They are terrified of what could happen."
More reader responses to a possible pay cut:
- "I've already got hit with a 10 percent cut. It was either take the cut or hit the street. In this economy there isn't any choice. I am glad to have a job. I know the alternative. There are people standing in line for jobs."
— Phil Parmelee, a computer technician from Harrisburg, Pa.
- "I would take the cut! This is insane what is going on. Why is it happening? Because people who controlled the economy were greedy. Simple as that. I am angry. I would give up 5 percent to help another American hold onto their job, because in the end, every job that we lose, it will chisel a little more away from the foundation of this country. It will leave families in ruin."
— Wallace Farmer of Baltimore, Md., a program specialist with the Library of Congress.
- "After 23 years at the same place, I earn $21.13 an hour and would be willing to do so. The UAW pay scale is ridiculous, as are the so-called bonuses of the elite. I should not have to pay to bail out any of those people, but as it stands, I will."
— Kay Hensley, Coffeyville, Kan.
- "No, absolutely not. My wife and I own a home, both work full time and have two kids getting closer to college. ... We have already cut back on what we can put in the bank for savings. We have a hard time saving just as the person across the street from us does, and we are not going to go into our savings if we don't have to. The people on Wall Street should be held responsible. Where was the regulation?"
— Gene S. Kapuscienski, a special education teacher from Grafton, Mass.
- "I would be glad to only take a 5 percent pay cut. I work in the real estate industry and we have taken over a 50 percent pay cut. Where is our bailout?"
— Greg Davis, Holiday Island, Ark.
- "No, I am not willing to take a pay cut until the senior management reduces their pay and incentives. The senior leadership pay and benefits need to be more in-line with the pay and benefits received by the employees. Excessive senior leadership compensation plans are outrageous and are hindering growth in many U. S. corporations."
— Jim Frissell, Tampa, Fla.
- "I wish I could take a pay cut to save jobs, but I don't make enough to even survive myself, so that is really out of the question. We are relatively busy where I work and gearing up for a surprisingly good 2009 business, despite the economic meltdown, so the mood here is blessed, thankful and focused."
— Gina Stephens, a document control specialist from San Jose, Calif.
"I am a mechanic at a local hospital where I live. No, I would not take a pay cut. My raise this year was 1.8 percent. I worked for TWA and have been down this road before. It just doesn't work. Most people are struggling today in our country and we're all feeling the pinch."