As Circuit City seeks bankruptcy protection, and DHL U.S. Express announced plans to lay off 9,500 workers, I can't help but think back to decisions the companies made six months to a year ago that foreshadowed these moves Monday. For Circuit City, it was laying off workers that I think helped lead it to bankruptcy, and for DHL it was a merger that eventually led to jobs being lost. Either way, workers were harshly affected.
Circuit City has had its share of poor decisions over the years, but at least customers knew when walking in that it had some of the most knowledgeable sales people in the industry who were willing to help. I don't know much about electronics, but after going into a Circuit City store, I knew a lot more and could make an informed decision.
But a year ago, the company laid off thousands of its experienced salespeople. Sure, it saved money with fewer workers and the cheaper employees who remained, but it easily looked like a dumb move at the time by anyone who had done business there.
DHL announced a plan in May to outsource with United Parcel Service. While not exactly a merger, anytime I see companies combining operations or letting another company take over part of its service, it's only a matter of time before employees see their jobs go. For DHL, 7,000 of the 9,500 U.S. jobs lost will be in Wilmington, Ohio, and officials there expect the economy to take a hard fall.
I've had my own experiences with layoffs and mergers, and I foresaw layoffs coming, but I just didn't forsee myself losing my job. I thought I was pretty close to secure, having taken on extra duties months before I was laid off in June at a newspaper in the San Francisco Bay Area. A media company known for cost cutting bought the paper, and immediately, a lot of smart people quit and found new jobs. I wasn't smart enough to leave so soon, and I kept telling myself that I'd be safe. But the hammer fell in June and like thousands of other people across the country, I find myself looking for work in an economy that is tanking.
I should have seen the writing on the wall, and maybe like Circuit City and DHL workers, I couldn't see it because it was written backwards. It's much easier to see now in a rear-view mirror.
Aaron Crowe is a former reporter, copy editor and assigning editor at newspapers in California. He's now a full-time dad looking for work. Read his tale at www.talesofanunemployeddad.blogspot.com