By Richard (RJ) Eskow
Senior Fellow, Campaign for America’s Future
The defense industry and its Republican allies in Congress are up in arms — metaphorically speaking, of course — over the possibility that an agreement which the GOP signed might actually take effect as agreed.
They hate when then happens. So they’re cooking something up that could create big problems for your wallet … not to mention your digestive tract.
Republicans routinely express contempt at the thought of using government funds to save jobs. But when it comes to defense spending, they want us to know that government funds should be used to save jobs. For their part, defense contractors just want our money. So, in what appears to be a coordinated plan, Lockheed Martin threatened to send out fraudulent “layoff notices” to over one hundred thousand employees, while its minions in Congress simultaneously demand that the Pentagon do the same.
We’ll need to send out a few hundred million more notices if they succeed — including a warning about the E. Coli outbreaks their plans likely to create. Drop those hamburgers, kids! Lockheed Martin wants a few more billion from your Mommies and Daddies.
Nobody knows if the sequestration process will be triggered, or where and how the mandated cuts would be applied to if it were. Nevertheless, Lockheed Martin CEO Robert “Bob” Stevens told Congress that “a very rough ‘seat of the pants’ estimate is that we might be required to lay off about 10,000 employees.”
But since Mr. Stevens has absolutely no information on the nature of those cuts, that figure must have been pulled out of something inside those pants.
Stevens goes on to claim that sequestration’s “reductions… are likely to trigger the law (called) the WARN Act — requiring 60 days or more advanced notification in certain locations before workers can be laid off. But since we don’t know exactly who will be affected,” says Stevens, “our best judgment is that we may have to notify a substantially higher number of our employees … that they may not have a job if sequestration takes place.”
Stevens says that the law forces Lockheed Martin to send layoff notices to most of its 123,000 workers, many of whom just happen to live in battleground electoral states — even though most of them won’t be laid off, according to Lockheed’s own beneath-the-seat-of-the-pants scenario. And the media’s taking the bait. “Virginia Voters Ask Whom to Blame for Defense Cut Risk,” said Bloomberg BusinessWeek in a typical headline.
There’s only one problem: Lockheed Martin CEO Bob Stevens may be lying. And unless he’s an incompetent executive with an equally incompetent legal team, he knows he’s probably lying.
Who’s the Boss?
Here’s what the WARN Act actually says: “An employer may order a plant closing or mass layoff before the conclusion of the 60-day period if the closing or mass layoff is caused by business circumstances that were not reasonably foreseeable as of the time that notice would have been required.” (Emphasis ours.)
Since the outcome of the sequestration process isn’t “reasonably foreseeable,” Lockheed and other defense contractors aren’t obliged to send notices to anybody. And since Lockheed made it clear that more than 90 percent of the employees receiving those notices would not be laid off, even under its own hypothetical and hyper-hysterical scenario, the unlucky 1 in 10 won’t even know who they are — which means nobody would be receiving a genuine layoff notice. They’d just be frightened and intimidated, right in time for Election Day. That’s why the Labor Department has stated that it would be “inappropriate” to send out layoff notices under these circumstances.
Word to a company whose motto is “We never forget who we’re working for”: I think you forgot something.
The Lockheed Martin lie was part of a broader offensive which is based on what seems to be a new tactic: terrorizing working people, in a time of high unemployment, purely for political and financial gain.
While Bob Martin was pulling his little scam House Republicans were pressing a Defense Department official to acknowledge that, if the Pentagon were to lay off civilian employees, it would also have to send out layoff notices before the election. They then scolded the official, however, when he explained that no layoffs were currently being planned.
“The anxiety is building on a daily basis,” said Virginian Republican Rep. Rob Wittman, a member of the House Armed Services Committee. But Wittman’s not on record as expressing any “anxiety” over the loss of jobs, children’s health services, or other important services from sequestration’s non-defense cuts. In fact, he seems to have faced these possibilities with considerable equanimity.
Worst. Jobs. Plan. Ever.
Sequestration was always a dumb idea, and Democrats should’ve known from past experience that Republicans would welsh on the deal anyway.Now the GOP wants to increase defense spending well above previously agreed-upon levels, while slashing all other government spending to well below the original deal’s already dangerously-low limits. The Center for Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) shows us what they have in mind:
For all their caterwauling about lost defense jobs, far more jobs will already be lost in other areas under the current plan — and their proposed changes would make those losses rise even further. A study
by Sen. Tom Harkin notes that sequestration’s $2.7 billion in lost federal education grants would force “46,349 employees to either lose their jobs or rely on cash-strapped States and localities to pick up their salaries instead.” (more…)