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C'est la Z

Tech Layoffs and Workers Rights

Lots of layoffs in big tech recently. Overall lousy but I am encouraged by the number of people trying to organize the local community to be supportive in helping those affected.

Clearly this "correction" can turn current employees worlds upside down and place individuals and families in precarious financial situations but the effects also affect the incoming workforce. In addition to layoffs, internships and offers have been canceled left and right.

Things are bad but are they bad enough to convince not only those directly affected but also those who could be to make things better? I hope so but I'm skeptical.

I say those affected rather than the tech industry because I've been thinking a lot about the state of labor recently and changes, just like during the heyday of the labor movement, changes will only come when demanded by the masses.

I get it that when a market contracts, an economy turns down or there are unforeseen shifts like a global pandemic, money doesn't flow and people lose jobs. I get it but that's not really what I'm seeing.

I'm seeing left and right that "profits are down." Read that carefully. "Profits are Down," not losses are up. When you say profits are down, you're not saying you're losing money. You're saying you're making money, just not as much. It's like the Wall Street mindset that turned me off so many years ago. If you buy a stock, it goes up, yo sell, you make money. If it then goes up more, the Wall Street mind thinks you've lost money. That's not healthy.

If companies were just trimming the fat, that would be one thing but that wouldn't result in mass layoffs - that would happen over time when a hire was found to be a bad fit. Sure. Some non-productive employees are being let go but so are many really good people. If a company is letting go of good people then that's bad planning on the companies part.

The truth is that even though tech employees are relatively well paid, they're still cogs in the machine and ultimately, at will employees. Maybe people will start to realize with all the perks more often than not, they're still just there to make money for the corporation. At the end of the day, the company doesn't care about them. Even when we see the top execs taking cuts, we don't see it affecting their lifestyles. It's a token gesture to ameliorate the masses - make them feel like the top of the ladder is feeling the pain. They're not. They'll say "I take responsibility" and then go on in their bubble.

Combine the recent corporate welfare (turned frequently into stock buybacks), the layoffs, price gauging and still profits across industries and maybe, just maybe, people will start to realize that we've got to get back strengthening the worker. That the hard fought gains of our parents and grandparents have been given back to the rich. This goes back as far as I can remember with Reagan firing the Air Traffic controllers even though their demands were not only reasonable but in fact just about all are now in affect to Republican led "Right to work" laws. Of course the Democrats only put up token resistance if any at all.

If tech workers, and workers in general, had reasonable rights and protections. The kinds that, dare I say it, a modern form of union could provide then when times got bad, the pain would be shared equally between ownership and worker. Workers wouldn't be thrown on to the street willy nilly but there would be a framework to provide a safety net.

Will the tech workers community act in any way not only to protect themselves in the future but other workers in general? We'll see. As I said, I'm skeptical but there are some trying. I won't mention names but a handful of my former students have been active and vocal in fighting for workers rights and equity in tech, sometimes at great personal cost, and I couldn't be prouder of them. I hope they prevail.

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