Press "Enter" to skip to content

First take

Layoffs happen. I was laid off from my first job when I was in high school – the local McDonald’s staffed up for summer, then eased back as summer’s end approaches, reflecting customer demand. I got it then, and it’s understandable now in larger contexts. When Intel last month laid off several hundred people, that was unfortunate but it wasn’t too hard to understand: Parts of Intel’s business has slowed, especially the large part geared around supplying chips for computers. The growth business is in chips for other things, and Intel is getting into that, but transition means some jobs will be lost.

The complaints surfacing seem to recognize all that. The complaints seem to have more to do with changes in the rules about who is ineligible to be rehired by Intel when the corporation is hiring. The Oregonian reported last week, “Previously, employees say, workers became eligible for layoffs when they received substandard ratings in the company’s rigorous annual-review process. But according to documents obtained by The Oregonian, Intel selected some employees for last month’s layoffs based instead on the level of performance-based stock grants they received last year.”

But I think there may have been more upset about Intel executive Brian Krzanich’s comment that “this is the way a meritocracy works.”

Well, no, but this is the way today’s megacorporations – or their CEOs at least – think. Anyone who’s been through a large layoff knows that people are swept out without much regard to the quality of the work they were doing: They were in the wrong place at the wrong time. That’s injurious enough, but adding the insult to the trauma of joblessness is what’s most meritless here.

A letter to the Oregonian‘s editor commented, “Something needs to change if this is acceptable in America. We’ve become a nation of sheep.” Have they been not only injured but insulted enough, yet, to actually start, you know, organizing, the way their forebears did a century and more ago?

Share on Facebook