“Why are we settling for a world where men are unemployed and women are in poverty?”
Carly Fiorina was addressing a largely elderly crowd at Franklin Pierce University in southwestern New Hampshire. After a few hiccups—a broken microphone, some awkward pauses—the candidate hit her stride as she explained her economic plan.
The key feature of said plan is that government is “corrupt, inept, and expensive.” Fiorina argued that from her perch at the height of industry as the CEO of Hewlett Packard, she witnessed firsthand the kind of “crony capitalism” through which corporations impact regulation. She said the way forward on issues—from income inequality to having a secure and thriving internet—is deregulation.
I was there to ask about employment. Specifically layoffs, and the HP employees in New Hampshire who were let go under her leadership. I wanted to know if any of the emergency federal grants given to New Hampshire to mitigate cutbacks in the state’s high tech industry went to support those people.
“No,” Fiorina said. “But they were given great severance packages. They were very well taken care of.”
“They” were the roughly 30,000 Hewlett-Packard employees nationwide who lost their jobs in a massive wave of layoffs under Fiorina. Indeed, the candidate has taken flack for this, joining executives like Donald Trump and Mitt Romney whose business practices have come under intense scrutiny during presidential campaigns.
But the HP layoffs had an especially local flavor. New England was damaged in a failed merger between Compaq and the Massachusetts-based Digital Equipment Corporation, in part leading to cuts when the two were absorbed into HP. According to Boston Globe, 200 jobs were lost in New Hampshire.
Ray Buckley, chair of the New Hampshire Democratic party, has said, “Fiorina’s record is an economic disaster. She laid off New Hampshire workers, shipped thousands of American jobs overseas, and tripled her own salary—getting a golden parachute before HP fired her.”
Others have defended Fiorina, pointing to HP’s growth during her tenure. Check Politifact, however, and it appears that growth was “largely thanks to a controversial merger with Compaq” rather than “proportional increases to either profits or the number of HP jobs.”
There’s also the fact that the government paid to compensate for the aftershock of these layoffs. This is a particularly poignant note in New Hampshire this week, as Fiorina spreads her message about how government should leave the economy alone.
By Lukas Vrbka
According to the Department of Labor, federal agencies gave emergency grants to provide retraining and employment programs in 2003, 2004, and 2005 to New Hampshire. Looking at the grants that were given due to “high tech industries layoffs,” I asked the state’s Office of Workforce Opportunity if money given between 2002 and 2005 was tied to specific companies in the tech industry. The woman on the phone cut me off half way through though.
“Oh I know what you are going to ask,” she said. I guess I’m not the first person to look. She continued, “I’m not going there. I know where you’re going. This is political. I can’t go that far back.”
Luckily, the Department of Labor was less concerned about the political consequences of providing legally public information. A spokesperson there directed me to a memo that confirms laid-off HP workers received federal help in the Granite State:
New Hampshire. Approved for up to $1,085,740, with $470,403 released initially, to assist approximately 250 workers affected by layoffs from Hewlett-Packard Corporation, Aprisma Software, Great Plains Business, Samnina, Verizon and Nortel Networks.
Workers received federal emergency assistance in Massachusetts as well. The Commonwealth’s Executive Office of Labor & Workforce Development told BINJ that part of the $770,000 in National Emergency Grants given to the state went towards retraining and employment programs for former HP employees.
“We are destroying the job creators!” Fiorina announced at Franklin Pierce.
We are apparently cleaning up after them too.