They choke back tears and hug former colleagues as they box up personal items from their desks and say goodbye.
They're the faces of the 204 North Las Vegas job cuts. To them it isn't just a number anymore.
Harsh reality hit this week as employees were handed layoff notices. Notifications will continue through next week.
Ruben Luevano, who worked for six years in the city's communication department, was one of the first to be let go. He put in three hours on his shift Wednesday as a graphic artist and photographer before he was told by his supervisor to clear out the studio space, which took him eight hours.
"They're calling it Black Wednesday," Luevano said. "You get called in by your boss to have a meeting. That's what starts the whole procedure. You get called in and let go. People are clearing out their desks, walking their belongings out to their cars and turning in their keys. The mood has been very negative and very oppressive. It feels like we're on the Titanic waiting for it to go down. It's a feeling of absolute helplessness."
Last week, officials of the financially strapped city slashed positions to save the $33.4 million it needs to make it through the next fiscal year. Layoffs are hitting most city departments.
"I understand the city has no choice and has to balance their budget, but the way they handled the layoffs was very clinical and uncaring with the employees," Luevano said. "They basically call you in there, and in an extremely emotional moment when you know you're losing your job, they make you make a decision whether you leave immediately or bump, but they don't tell you what the bumping procedures are."
"Bumping" is an option for employees with seniority who can essentially move another employee with lesser seniority out of his or her job, assuming they can step into that role immediately with minimal training. Employees can only move laterally or take a pay cut and even then, nothing is guaranteed. If the city's human resources department doesn't approve the proposed "bump," the employee can continue working until June 18.
The other option is more immediate. Employees can leave the day they get pink-slipped. For each laid-off employee, the city will pay into the Public Employees' Retirement System and pay for health insurance until mid-June.
"We actually have a set script so everybody gets treated the exact same way," said Acting City Manager Maryann Ustick. "We obviously give them the bad news that their position has been eliminated, and it has absolutely nothing to do with their performance. This is not a reflection of the contributions they made to the city."
Jenny Paek, who was let go Thursday after serving almost two years as a planning assistant, cried as she hugged her friends in the city's planning department.
"It was my first job, my first layoff, and it wasn't a very pleasant experience," Paek said. "The city only gave us 24 hours to make our decision. Everyone felt threatened by it, and nobody knew who would directly be affected. In 24 hours, we have to make decisions that not only change our lives but our family's lives."
With a blotchy, tear-streaked face, the 26-year-old said she's one of the lucky ones who can head back to school and continue applying for jobs.
"It's a brand new beginning for me when it really only just started," she said. "In some ways I'm sad because I just got my career started, and it ended, and it didn't really end positively. I felt the city could have done more to prepare people better when they got laid off."
Councilwoman Anita Wood said the situation has people holding onto their jobs in case the unions step in to change any contracts.
"It's devastating. You're looking at 204 people, 204 families during these really tough times," Wood said.
Contact Kristi Jourdan at email@example.com or 702-383-0279.