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Corporate America swings the layoff ax
Throwing workers to the wolves

January 4, 2002 | Page 1

EBENEZER SCROOGE would have been proud.

Over the holidays, aircraft giant Boeing announced that it was speeding up its layoff plans and will ax 25,000 jobs within six months. At Motorola, management said in mid-December that it would lay off another 9,400 workers. All told, the telecommunications company has shed nearly one-third of its workforce since August 2000.

"It definitely was taboo to lay people off before the holidays, but no more," said Thomas Kochan, a professor at MIT's Sloan School of Management. And Boeing and Motorola's holiday greetings to workers were only the tip of the iceberg.

Over the past year, corporate layoffs nearly tripled, according to Challenger, Gray & Christmas, the consulting firm that tracks job cuts. "This year, the downsizing just dwarfs anything we've seen before," said chief executive John Challenger.

And what will the new year bring? Motorola predicts "further ongoing and rigorous efforts to improve efficiency and competitiveness."

Translation: throwing workers to the wolves.

"Sadly, I'm in the airline industry," Laurie told Socialist Worker as she waited in line at an unemployment office in Chicago. Laurie worked in a sales office until she was laid off on December 21--for the second time in the past year.

"We had two weeks notice," she said. "When you look at what happened at places like United, folks worked there for 20 years, and good-bye--no severance, nothing. A lot of people are taking pay freezes just to keep their jobs."

And that's not all. In the last three months, more than half a million people lost health care insurance, most of them as the result of layoffs, according to a December report by Families USA, a nonprofit health care advocacy group. And this isn't to mention the millions of people who work full-time--and don't have health insurance.

You'd think that Washington would respond to this wave of layoffs and cutbacks with the same urgency that they passed a multibillion-dollar bailout for the airline bosses--or antiterrorism legislation that shreds our civil liberties.

Yet Republicans and Democrats walked out of Congress last month without making a single plan to help the growing number of workers who got a pink slip for the holidays.

So much for "Americans pulling together" after September 11. The politicians proved once again that they care most about preserving the profits of their corporate backers--no matter what the cost to workers.

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