Cutting back, laying off and downsizing are no longer the wave of the future. Rather, the wave is now upon us and many are drowning. Gone are the days of job security and income stability for millions of people nationwide.
In what has been called the biggest bank merger in California history, Wells Fargo & Co. recently won a hostile takeover bid for First Interstate Bancorp. Pending approval by federal and state anti-trust regulators, this merger will close an estimated 350 First Interstate offices in California and put approximately 8,000 people out of work.
Prior to the Wells Fargo bid, each company’s stock realized healthy gains. However, this merger will mean obscene profits for shareholders as the mega-deal is worth an estimated $11.6 billion. Though the figure is impressive, it is overshadowed by the fact that the number of employees who stand to be hurt by the merger is much larger than the number of shareholders who will gain from it. Also realizing that few of those jobless people will see any of the billions of dollars that will change hands.
Money should never be the measure by which people decide between right and wrong. If it is wrong to fire 8,000 people when it can be avoided, then it is still wrong to fire them for profit. No dollar figure can compensate for the emotional turmoil and financial devastation that the average working person will be forced to endure.
After reporting a loss for the the last fiscal quarter, Apple Computers recently announced plans to eliminate over 1,300 jobs during the next 12 months. In a memorandum to employees, former Apple CEO Michael Spindler said, “Our first order of business is to quickly streamline operations, and a reduction in our work force is a difficult but necessary first step.”
Hopefully for the Apple employees, IBM will be hiring. Unfortunately, profit seems to be the only means by which our society measures success and value. It is equally, if not more so, important to measure success in terms of ethics, morals and impact on the people involved, rather than just on the bottom line.
But the downsizing just seems to continue.
In a Jan. 2 letter from AT&T Chairman Bob Allen to AT&T employees, Allen said that the company plans to fire 40,000 employees over the next three years. Of these eliminated positions, 60 percent will be management. In an effort to explain, Allen offered only that the action is essential to be competitive.
Because downsizing has created an increase in the number of people working in part time and temporary positions without benefits, unemployment numbers appear to be improving. However, these figures do not take into account the number of long term, management and senior positions that have been eliminated in enormous quantities or have fallen off the unemployment rolls.
Countless people are finding themselves unemployed without cause, and the only explanation to be found is that success is dependent upon competition and profit.
It is true that these elements are essential to produce more efficient, technically advanced and high standard products. However, there is no need for competition to be void of all compassion or for profits to be sky high.
Too many companies have become ugly at the hands of those who have defined success in terms of how much more money can be made while overlooking the manner in which that money is made.
Part of the reality is that many companies will downsize large numbers of employees only to turn around and hire workers at lower wages, or to hire temporary help to avoid paying benefits.
Downsizing has created a business ethic that is morally bankrupt. Dollar signs and decimal points have become more important than people. That is not success, it’s greed.