Prior to the COVID-19 crisis, CalTASH chapter Vice President Zachary Miller was in his third year working part of the day in the California State House and part in the Capitol cafeteria. Zachary had worked with the California State Developmental Disabilities Service Organization (DDSO) for placement and job coaching in the position. On March 17th, the Capitol closed owing to the COVID-19 pandemic in California and Zachary found himself suddenly on an indefinite furlough. “I thought of it as a break, like my job is still there: it is just on hold for a while.” Then, just after his three-year anniversary, like hundreds of thousands of other workers across the country, he was laid off.
Zachary spent a month unemployed, working to find a new routine running his household. It was a difficult transition for him. While it was great to have a break, Zachary says he was not used to staying home; he missed the routine, the customers and his coworkers. “I felt like I needed something to do because I am used to working and I didn’t want to sit around and collect unemployment the whole time. I wanted to get out and do something.” So after a little while he began looking for a new job.
For his jobs at the State House, DDSO helped him with placement and job coaching in the early days. But during lockdown, state services to help people with disabilities find jobs were one of the things that were no longer available. Zachary was on his own.
Zachary searched and applied on-line. He got a telephone call and had a phone interview. He brainstormed a list of questions he thought he might be asked in the interview to prepare. He went for an orientation, and on April 21st he started as a package handler at FedEx.
It was okay that he didn’t have a job coach this time, because FedEx had an on-boarding process and he received two weeks of training prior to fully assuming his responsibilities.
Now he works loading the FedEx delivery trucks. It is a difficult job. Zachary works from 4:45 AM when the overnight packages arrive from the airport until 9:30 AM when the FedEx trucks roll out to make deliveries. There is no public transit at that hour, so Zachary bikes to work. It takes him an hour to make the eleven-mile bike ride. It’s not like his previous nine-to-five and it has been difficult to adjust to a whole new schedule, not just for work, but for his personal life and his bed-time.
Despite these difficulties of the FedEx job, Zachary is keeping it. He has stayed in touch with his State House employers about the possibility of them reopening. If they do, he’s sticking with FedEx, but would consider going back to the restaurant part-time with the time he has after he is done at FedEx.
Zachary’s advice for people with disabilities and others who are laid off during the pandemic is, “Just keep on looking. I know this is an essential job so people are hiring during this pandemic still. There are jobs out there for you to go and give a shot at.”
Zachary Miller is the Vice President of the California TASH chapter.