Using layoffs as a method to cut costs is nothing new for large corporations. But Lowe’s decision this week to cut 125 tech workers and move work to India drew emotional responses from readers, customers and employees alike.
Lowe’s layoffs come at a time when the focus of government leaders seems to be on building a strong business environment in the U.S. to encourage companies to invest domestically, and to bring outsourced jobs back.
Lowe’s confirmed that many affected tech functions would be moving to its office in Bangalore, India, where the company employs roughly 1,000 people in IT and analytics. Several former employees who reached out to the Observer this week said they had been training their counterparts in India. (Lowe’s, however, has denied several times that this has been happening.)
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Lowe’s said that it turned to staffing reductions as a way to align “the right resources in the right places,” and to best position the company for the future “in an ever-changing retail environment.”
In other words, in the already thin-margin retail industry, the company concluded it needed to reduce redundancy wherever possible.
“The Mooresville office will continue to play a critical role in delivering our IT solutions,” the company said Thursday in an email to the Observer.
Through Reddit, Facebook, Twitter and email, many readers and customers denounced the decision by Lowe’s, and advocated avoiding the brand in protest of its recent actions.
“I emailed them and told them they had lost my business and this is why,” a reader named Rene Flynn commented on the Lowe’s story.
Weeks after his election in November, President Donald Trump spoke about how he worked out a deal with Indiana air conditioner manufacturer Carrier Corp. to stop the company from outsourcing hundreds of its jobs to Mexico. By focusing on American manufacturing and shunning trade deals like NAFTA, Trump made “America-first” language a major talking point during his campaign.
“Is Trump going to step in and prevent this? I mean he basically said that he would stop such a practice. I will probably take my business elsewhere also. I have always considered Lowe’s as American as a company could get, but not now,” reader James Nodine commented on the Lowe’s story.
Another reader named Dot Williams forwarded a letter addressed to Lowe’s, IBM, Bank of America, GE, Oracle and other companies that outsource jobs to India.
“‘MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN’ So, let me see if I understand how YOU’RE making AMERICA GREAT AGAIN: You’re taking jobs away from hard working American people and sending those jobs to India? ... Well, shame on you! Sounds like you’re making INDIA GREAT. How sad,” Williams wrote to the Observer.
Some readers questioned why executives are still making millions, while the company slashes jobs at various levels.
According to a securities filing this spring, the pay for all top executives at Lowe’s saw a slight decline in 2016 from the prior year. CEO Robert Niblock, for example, made $12.67 million in 2016, representing a decline of 3.72 percent from the year before.
“It’s always the little guy who takes the brunt of this, never the fat cats,” wrote one IT professional unaffiliated with Lowe’s, who asked not to be named for fear of retaliation, in an email to the Observer.
This week’s layoffs follow several similar cost-cutting moves at Lowe’s over the last year.
Lowe’s eliminated 96 corporate tech jobs in October, then in January cut another 2,400 full-time jobs, mostly at the store level. In February, it followed with more than 500 corporate layoffs, including 430 at its headquarters in Mooresville and 70 support staffers in Wilkesboro.