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This is why we can't have nice things



Full disclosure: I was also laid off.


Background

Big Tech has had it’s Red Wedding episode. In the last three weeks around 50 thousand people have been laid off from powerhouses Microsoft, Google, Amazon, Meta, and CapitalOne. Game companies and others have followed. This doesn’t even include layoffs downstream by companies that depend on business from the giants.


In the US, this means people are left scrambling for healthcare (don’t get me started on tying healthcare to employment) and income. Some states have good social support programs, some do not. Unemployment in most states maxes out around $400/week. People aren’t even able to make mortgage and rent with that.


Many people will drop into poverty and homelessness. Some won’t recover.




Why?

That’s part of the problem. We don’t really know. “Hard Times” isn’t really a reason, especially when the companies doing layoffs are still making lots of money. Many are still hiring.


One reason is that these companies overhired during the pandemic and now don’t need as many people since things are back to “normal.” Overhired tens of thousands. All of them. At the same time. And realized it at the same time.


Sounds to me like a bunch of executives fucked up. But they aren’t the ones losing their jobs.


Many of us know what’s more likely. Although all these companies are still doing well, the Executive Club all want to keep getting their huge bonuses, so they need to pad the bottom line. Easiest way is to cut salaries. They’re just people. And bam! Short term increases and long term bonuses.


And the lives of 50 thousand people are in a tailspin.


The more suspicious of us have another idea. All these executives are buddies. It really is an Executive Club. When one company does something, they all do it. They haven’t liked the recent trend of employees wanting better conditions and more respect. So they decided to put everyone in their place. After all, it wouldn’t be the first time these guys have colluded against workers.


Whatever the reason, it’s simply unacceptable that companies can do this sort of thing in the US. The EU has laws against this kind of thing, as Twitter has learned when they tried to lay off EU citizens recently.


What the US Needs

Our current labor laws are still very “early industrial age” in scope. The only law close in intent is that you can’t fire protected classes (over 40, religion, ethnicity, etc) because of being a protected class. Unfortunately, most states can fire you for NO reason, so as long as they don’t come out and say they fired you because you’re a protected class, there’s nothing anyone can do.


And, as we’ve seen, there’s nothing stopping companies from laying off as many people as they want at any time for any reason.


We need laws like the EU, where a company has to give ample warning and meet with employee representatives to explain the reasoning and other strategies. We also need mandatory severance packages that can keep people afloat, unemployment insurance that has kept pace with cost of living, and health insurance that isn’t crazy-expensive. If I can’t afford it when I’m employed, how would I be able to afford it when I’m unemployed?


Why we don’t have it

Greed. The same reason we have anti-trust issues, massive layoffs despite data that shows they don’t help and actually hurt in the long run, forced Return To Office mandates even though the research is clear that it isn't needed and is actually harmful, and a society where the rich are above the law.


Corporate executives have decided to join forces to teach worker's a lesson. And the government is on their side. In fact, some states are trying to legalize child labor.


Greed.

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