by Otis Grotewohl, published on Workers World, February 2, 2023
You can buy a paperback copy of this book on Amazon for $298.99, get a Kindle copy for $15.98 OR read it for free online here: https://www.marxists.org/history/etol/writers/marcy/hightech/index.html [jb]
In a vulgar display of capitalist greed, indicative of the system’s state of decay, high tech companies have laid off more than 58,000 workers since the start of the new year. These figures include the latest announcements from Google parent company Alphabet to slash 12,000 jobs and Microsoft’s recent 10,000-person reduction. (crunchbase.com)
These new layoffs in the tech industry are a continuation of major cuts over the last year. According to the tech-job tracker layoffs. FYI, there have been more than 200,000 tech jobs eliminated since the start of 2022. They include 18,000 layoffs at Amazon in recent months and 11,000 at Facebook parent company Meta in November.
To add insult to injury, many of the Google workers only discovered they were terminated when their key fobs didn’t work after they arrived at work. Google notified the workers through an email, rather than through personal contact. Meanwhile, corporate spokespeople and human resources representatives of the tech giants can be heard condescendingly telling laid-off workers to “build their resumes.” With mass layoffs at such a high rate, it is difficult for the displaced workers to be optimistic about future job opportunities.
Oppressed and international workers suffer most
All the workers who have been criminally laid off by the tech bosses are now scrambling to find a new source of income. Black and Brown tech workers, especially immigrant workers, are suffering the most. Tech workers from other countries, whose citizenship is dependent upon work visas, are suddenly facing threats of deportation.
According to the financial news website Mint, a number of “industry insiders” estimate that between 30% and 40% of affected employees on temporary work status are from India. (mashable.com, 1/24/23) Many tech workers from India, as well as China and other countries, depend on an H-1B visa. The H-1B visa is one that allows U.S. companies to employ workers from around the world for specific occupations that require theoretical or technical expertise.
The laid-off H-1B holders need to find an H-1B sponsoring job within 60 days or leave the U.S. within 10 days after losing status. Many of the tech workers residing in the U.S. under the H-1B visas had invited their families to live with them, assuming they were safe, but now their lives are filled with uncertainty.
Consequences of capitalist greed
Under capitalism, bosses constantly seek to expand their profits. Capitalist owners have been using automation and technology to their advantage for decades. Their irresponsible behavior has led to the annihilation of millions and millions of jobs around the world.
Many occupations of workers, who were once considered irreplaceable, are seemingly becoming obsolete. Communities and neighborhoods, urban and rural alike, which were once thriving with jobs, are now devastated because of capitalist automation. Since many former industrial jobs have been replaced by tech jobs over the years, many people working in the tech industry thought their jobs were more secure than other jobs. That was a lie they were often told.
Several corporations have started replacing managerial staff with electronic devices. Many companies are now collecting data and even evaluating employees through the use of algorithms. Some people are calling this practice, along with other technological schemes, “uberization,” highlighting the toxic combination of union-busting privatization and job-killing machinery. Such uberization of any workplace is done to help company owners and investors rake in profits by reducing costs.
In “High Tech, Low Pay,” Workers World Party chairperson and founder, Sam Marcy explained how the use of high technology under capitalism can be to the detriment of the working class and oppressed. Marcy wrote,
“High technology, especially in the era of computers and electronics, continues to take quantum jumps. A plant, which just recently may have had 10 years to go, can now become obsolete as a result of the constant revolution of the means of production. The development of not only products and devices but of whole new technologies makes what otherwise would be a well-functioning, long-lasting plant with a stable workforce obsolete, but only in comparison to the new technologies.”
On the flipside, technology can be useful under socialism. When technology is used for human need and not for corporate greed, it can be applied to advance humanity’s well-being. Socialist countries ensure full employment, which allows people to have more leisure time. The Soviet Union and China were able to industrialize on a massive scale, in a short period of time, precisely because they utilized technology to help people, rather than to enrich a wealthy few.
It is past time that working and oppressed people give capitalism a layoff notice!