Writing in Think Progress, Pat Garofalo reports that Wisconsin legislators are now trying to attack private sector unions in the name of “preventing layoffs.” The plan is called “work-sharing,” and it would allow companies with union workers to cut hours without consulting unions. The only way working people will be safe from such schemes is to vote for politicians who support labor rights; however, they are hard to find these days. It will be interesting to see how Governor Walker reacts if this measure is passed. Who frightens him more, the Koch Brothers or the voters?
All eyes on Wisconsin – again.
Aljazeera reports that airline workers in Spain have launched a two week strike to protest planned layoffs. The strike could cost the airline, which is losing money, as much as $134 million. The logical question – the American question – is why would workers strike? Don’t they care about their jobs?
Spanish workers see through the myth of “my job.” They are standing with those who are being laid off and saying, “No more.” American airline workers have suffered greatly over the last three decades as they’ve made concession after concession, lost pensions, and watched management continue to pay itself bonuses. Maybe they should take a lesson from their brothers and sisters in Spain. Solidarity.
One of my clients, let’s call him Larry, has worked for a large bank since graduating from college four years ago. He has been promoted twice and received a 9% raise last year. Sounds good so far. However, Larry has seen unexpected changes come to his department. One of his co-workers, a man who spent 25 years with the company, was laid off for reasons that Larry and most of his co-workers think are political. His department has also been moved from an HR function to Finance, which could mean more layoffs.
Larry’s story reminds us that promotions and raises don’t mean long term security. He has decided to update his resume and start looking for other opportunities because he no longer trusts his current employer. Too much change. Too much uncertainty.
Larry is putting himself in a position to manage his career. Too many people in a similar situation deny reality and tell themselves, “It’s not going to happen to me.” Larry is being proactive, and that’s the first step to being in control.
One of my clients has done very well with a large corporation. In 2010 and 2011, she received awards for superior performance. Yesterday at 4 p.m., I received a call from this client. She is being laid off because her department is being eliminated. She didn’t have any hint that this would happen.
What should my client do? First, understand that any layoff – expected or unexpected – is an emotional blow. She will experience grief, anger, and all of the other emotions that come with any kind of loss. She needs to give herself time to deal with those feelings. Then get focused and moving. If she is eligible, my client should file for unemployment insurance. Then start the job search – Don’t stop until she’s landed her next job.
It’s never easy to deal with an unexpected loss. However, you need to keep in mind that such things happen, and deal with them in a way that keeps your life moving forward.
Presidential candidate Mitt Romney said today that he likes to fire people who provide bad service. His opponents jumped on this poor choice of words and linked it to Romney’s past as a venture capitalist for a company that often “reduced headcount” at firms it purchased.
Earlier in my career I was a manager. Firing an employee was a task I hated, even when I disliked the employee and had heavy documentation to justify my action. When I had to let an employee go, it meant that I had failed in hiring, training, and managing that person. Somewhere along the line, I shared the responsibility of the person being terminated. One of the main reasons I hope I never have to manage again is that I never want to fire another human being.
One of the clients I met today was fired and replaced by a relative of his boss. He understood the “game,” but the dismissal still hurt. He put in extra time to complete a special project only to be told: “Thank you. There’s the door.” Many American workers over the last 35 years have heard that line. They build profitable companies only to see executives pursue even greater profits in low wage countries.
Mitt Romney’s choice of words was telling. He didn’t say, “I like to change companies or vendors when I get bad service.” He used the word fired. For many Americans, that word brings anger and tears, bad memories of an economy that puts profits over people and cheers for “job creators” who don’t seem to create any jobs. I liked hiring people because that was a hopeful activity. We need more hiring – more hope.
Lila Shapiro of Huffington Post reports that big companies are starting to lay off workers. She cites several experts who are worried that a new trend is developing. Industries that hadn’t been laying off workers in great numbers are now shedding employees. There is one hopeful note. More than half the layoffs were generated by five companies, one of which was Borders. This “trend” could be nothing to worry about. On the other hand. . .
Borders has announced that it will close its remaining stores, which means 10,700 more Americans will be losing jobs. We always hear that small and medium businesses are the engine of job growth. If that is true, how many business will have to open to absorb 10,700 lost jobs? Given the transition to digital books and online purchasing of books, no competitor will replace Borders. As with steel mills in the 1970s, the jobs lost today at bookstores (and video stores) are gone and not coming back.
This country needs an industrial policy, not trade deals that ship jobs to countries where workers earn poverty wages. When will our politicians stop worrying about investors and bankers, and start helping working people?
Postscript: Blogger Juan Cole offers an interesting take on the future of bookstores.
Paul Krugman has written a very interesting editorial in the New York Times on the belief that education will drive jobs in the future. Krugman points out that more and more white collar jobs are being lost to software and automation. Any routine, repetitive task can be done better by a machine. Krugman thinks the only solutions are rights for labor unions and better health care. I’m much more pessimistic. What good are unions if machines do the work? How will the unemployed pay for health care? I fear that at some point we will have too many people and not enough jobs – unless you are a machine.
Writing in Huffington Post, former Labor Secretary Robert Reich looks behind the rosy job numbers, and what he sees isn’t so pretty. Yes, private sector hiring is up. The unemployment rate is down. However, to move unemployment to 6%, monthly hiring would have to be 300,000 for every month into 2014. That’s not likely to happen. Even worse, new jobs are paying less than those that were lost. Americans who have kept their jobs have often taken pay cuts and are contributing more toward benefits. Reich criticizes conservatives who use deficits to ask workers to accept less and less.
While I agree with Reich, part of the blame also has to go on workers, especially unions that passively accept cuts. The fight in Wisconsin reminds us how important unions and collective bargaining are. Workers who are left on their own have two choices: Take big cuts or go look for work in a very tight job market. Something has to change. Hopefully, Wisconsin is the first step of something much, much bigger.
Postscript: Ed Schultz looks at the decline of unions and the parallel decline in middle class income.
Huffington Post reports that pharmaceutical giant Sanofi Aventis will be laying off 1,700 people before Christmas. Employees were informed by email and a recorded phone message – how classy! On the positive end the company is paying employees through the end of the year and providing some severance.
Over the last couple of years there have been big cuts and layoffs in the pharmaceutical industry that once gave employees good jobs. What happened? First, DTC – direct to consumer advertising. Once upon a time, drug companies had to use sales reps to pitch their products to doctors. After they were allowed to advertise on TV, patients who saw commercials started to ask for drugs. They filled the same role as the sales reps. A second trend has been to cut the size and responsibility of sales teams. Two of my clients worked as specialty reps. There teams were eliminated in the name of efficiency, which translates to fewer employees doing more work. A third factor is that many branded medications have been replaced by cheaper, generic alternatives.
We always hear that America has lost good manufacturing jobs, which is true. What is less often noted is that good jobs in accounting and sales have also been eliminated, off-shored, or automated. This news is very depressing – and it couldn’t come at a worse time.