Public Comment

Business Rhetoric: Putting A Positive Spin on Laying Off Workers

Harry Brill
Friday June 28, 2019 - 05:16:00 PM

President Trump, the GOP members of Congress, and the business community claimed that the 2117 tax law, which substantially reduces corporate taxes, would create jobs and increase wages. Instead, jobs have been cut and shipped to low wage countries. Nevertheless, large sectors of the business community continue to insist that it is committed to increasing jobs or at least not making substantial cuts. So let's take a look at the brief employment record of some of the nation's large corporations.

Take for example AT&T's public announcement that it was providing a "special bonus" to over 200,000 workers. That's great publicity for the company. Isn't it? However, that "bonus" was actually severance pay to several hundred thousand workers who were being laid off since the Trump corporate tax law was enacted. 

Comcast too promised a bonus because it received $12 billion in tax cuts in one year from Trump's substantial reduction in corporate taxes. Yet the $1,000 bonus the company promised each worker in a press release was really severance paid to laid off workers. Sometimes, silence is preferred. As one article mentioned, Comcast also quietly fired over 500 sales employees right before Christmas. 

McDonald's is also among the companies that laid off thousands of workers. But the company's president announced that it was only "eliminating layers", which does not sound as severe. 

The profitable Bank of America has laid off tens of thousands of workers. Why? According to the CEO's absurd justification, "downsizing is all about protecting the bank from future losses". Yet the Bank has been earning very high profits. In the first quarter of this year it earned $7.3 billion. 

Typical of many businesses that lay off workers, Hewlett-Packard prefers to call it "restructuring". The recent plan of the company to " restructure" includes laying off by the end of this year 5000 workers. 

< Another company, the Carrier Corporation, received considerable publicity by announcing that in response to the corporate tax break the company would retain a few hundred jobs that it had intended to eliminate. However, just one year later, when the advantage of its PR campaign died down, Carrier shipped these jobs to Mexico. 

If corporate sales declined precipitously, it is understandable to many members of the public that retrenchment may be necessary. But many of these companies that are laying off workers are very profitable. Moreover, their thirst for profits is insatiable. So in the aggregate corporate America has shipped to low wage countries about 14 million jobs. 

Those of us who want to understand the trends in the American labor force should not expect the business community to provide you with the right and honest answers.