This past week (February 14th), DaimlerChrysler announced that 13,000 employees would be cut from the company’s payroll, and plants will cut back on shifts while closing a plant in 2009. The timing of the announcement strangely coincided with the following historical item:

The announcement was the latest in a series of automotive related companies cutting their workforces since 2001. DaimlerChrysler, GM, Ford, Dana, Visteon, and Delphi (to name a few) have all let employees go as part of a restructuring plan. And quite frankly, I don’t think that the layoffs are done yet. If it’s like any of the other industries that have gone through this before, then we’re in deep trouble.

I remember the steel, airline, and machine-tool industries of old – strong and vibrant, second to none in their capacities and services. Where are they now? Gone, or in deep financial trouble if they are still around. These same industries went down the path of downsizing, layoffs, and restructuring when they ran into problems. And look where they ended up.

I could, at this point, go on a rant about globalization, unfair trade practices by other countries, and the unresponsiveness of the domestic companies to their customers. I could also comment on the lack of responsiveness of our elected officials to the plight of companies based in the United States, compare free trade vs. fair trade agreements, and mention the anti-American business commentaries of the various news outlets. These are the realities of business in this day and age. But the real casualties of this reality are the American workers.

The American worker (and I’m talking about both blue and white collar, Union and non-Union) has gone from being a valued and essential part of a company to a commodity that can be bought & sold at will. And it doesn’t matter if you are a highly trained professional or a line-worker – you are all expendable if the bottom line isn’t where it should be and the executives need a quick-financial fix. There are no guarantees.

In other words, everyone as well as everything is a commodity, ready to be bought, sold, or disposed of as need be. Loyalty of the company to the employee and the employee to the company is now a thing of the past. And that is a very uncomfortable feeling for those of us that are still employed.

It’s even worse for the folks that have lost their jobs. Finding another job is a major problem because of all the other people looking for a job at the same time. Here in Michigan, finding another job is an ordeal because of the number of people that are out of work and looking. For example, it took my wife 8 months to find a job after she was let go just because of the employment situation. Most people either give up or move to another state to find a position, and often it’s not a position that pays as well as the one they lost.

There are no easy solutions to people losing their jobs, nor are there easy answers for keeping the jobs we have. In many respects, we can just look on in dismay, plan for the worst, and hope for the best. And that is depressing.

What the future will bring is anyone’s guess. Will things get better or worse? When will the layoffs stop? I don’t have that magic crystal ball. Do you?

Advertisements