Monday, July 25, 2011

Making a list


A small businessman opens his paper and reads the latest news of job cuts in Massachusetts.  His brow furrows.  This is too familiar.  Too constant.  This businessman isn't particularly political. He has other things to worry about than the day-to-day on Beacon Hill.  Like running his business.  Oh, he pays attention and he votes.  The guy he voted for in 2010 lost.  The guy who won, he recalls, devoted a lot of oxygen to endless repetition of a mantra that assured us that on his watch and under his stewardship, things were getting better. Mending. Moving.

Does that seem right?  Is that how things are playing out?  This small businessman feels like maybe it isn't.  He spends some time jotting down a list, and he sends it to a friend, who sends it to a friend, who sends it to me.  Here it is:
Job cuts in MA since the 2010 election:
  • State street – 558 in MA
  • Flextronics – 250 in MA
  • Hasbro - 145 in MA (moving 70 of those to RI…rest layoffs)
  • Genzyme Genetics – 169 in MA (shifting part of work to NC)
  • Fidelity – 1100 jobs in MA (moving to NH and RI)…in 2006 had 13k MA employees, currently 8400 MA ee’s, soon to be 7300
  • CSC – 146 in MA
  • US Foodservice – 153 in MA (MA plant was not “economically viable”)
  • Unilever – 178 in MA
  • Courier – 110 in MA
  • Evergreen Solar – 800 in MA
  • BJ’s Wholesale – 114 in MA
  • AJ Wright – 800 in MA
  • Charles River Labs – 300 in MA
  • Biogen – 86 in MA
  • Genzyme – 185 in MA
  • NSTAR – 350 in MA (planned over next 5 years)
  • National Grid - TBD
That's an ugly list, and it isn't complete.  There's also Raytheon - 288 (almost immediately post-election), Baystate Health - 354...  I know I'm missing some too.  Drop a comment if I am. 

Of course that list only includes the big names.  The shuttered travel agency or diner or newsstand in your hometown isn't on that list.  The newly vacant greenhouse standing next to Quincy Market that I noticed this morning - the one that has housed a florist for as long as I can recall - isn't on that list.  How many others?  And how many of those closed here, only to open elsewhere?

Governor Patrick doesn't say "on the mend and on the move" much any more, creating a rhetorical void that is all the more striking for the voter-numbing ubiquity of the phrase last year. 

There are the monthly job figures of course.  When they are up, we get a press release, a Governor at the podium, etc.  When they are down, we get silence.  No matter.  Those figures are marginally useful as such things go, but they are always revised, often significantly.  All politicians and pundits - both parties - use those numbers when they are useful and ignore them when they aren't. 

This list... that's another thing entirely.  Those numbers aren't averages or estimates.  They are lost jobs.  They are unemployed people.  The names on the list are by and large recognizable.  Job cuts at State Street, or Raytheon, or NSTAR, or Genzyme, or the others?  That's news.  That makes an impression.  Not a good one. 

That kind of news says to the small businessman with his newspaper on his couch, "Something is wrong here."  It says to major corporations pondering a move into Massachusetts, "Something is wrong there."  It says to kids about to graduate from college, pondering where to dive into an ultra-tight job market, "Something is wrong here."  That impacts investment, hiring, expansion; none of these in a positive way.

Meanwhile, on Beacon Hill lawmakers are again considering a law that would force online retailers to collect Massachusetts tax on items purchased by Massachusetts consumers.  Jerry Brown's California recently did that.  Here's what's happening as a result:
Amazon.com is spearheading a referendum to nullify the law by collecting 500,000 signatures and putting the issue before voters in a referendum next June. But until then, thousands of businesses across the state are shut out from doing business with Amazon.com and other online retailers.

“We just want it to stop,” said Thomas Swalla of the termination notices streaming in. Swalla is chief operating officer of Los Angeles-based Savings.com, an online portal business that aggregates deals by merchants. The company has 4,500 affiliate-like relationships with online merchants, but since the law was signed, 300 have sent the company termination notices, costing the company up to an estimated 25 percent in business, according to Swalla.

The 100-employee company is now considering moving operations to Arizona or Nevada. “I am going to go ahead and prepare for the worst, hope for the best,” said Swalla.
New Hampshire already pays people to convince Massachusetts businesses to move north.  Doubtless they are hoping Beacon Hill will make their job even easier than it already is. 

Recently a Republican state Rep posted at Red Mass Group about the online sales tax proposal, asking "is it a new tax, or isn't it?"  I wanted to weep.  I can (and do) hope that the Representative was gathering ammunition to deploy against the proposal.  He's good on this stuff.  But whether or not an internet sales tax would be "new" isn't the point.  The list above is the point.  An internet sales tax would cause it to grow longer.  Elected officials - all of them - ought to be doing everything possible to achieve the opposite effect.

1 comment:

  1. I just filed a lawsuit against one of the companies on the list - Flextronics - for cheating its former employees out of overtime while they worked in Verizon Wireless stores. I wrote about it here: http://citadelpc.com/2011/10/09/flextronics-sued-for-not-paying-overtime-at-verizon-wirless-stores/

    John Longo
    (617) 752-1771
    jtlong@citadelpc.com

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