With Obama Reelected, Will There Be Mass Layoffs?

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In the lead-up to this election, several CEOs sent email blasts to their staff, urging them to vote for Mitt Romney or brace for a bloodbath of layoffs. But with Barack Obama now president for another four years, will these employers or others follow through on their warnings? Fox News thinks so, announcing in a headline on their website Friday, "Obama Reelection Triggers Massive Layoffs Across America." But so far that claim seems very unlikely.

The CEOs of Westgate Resorts (pictured above), ASG Software Solutions, uniform-maker Cintas Corp., and paper company Georgia-Pacific all gave slightly different reasons why an Obama victory might threaten their employees' livelihoods, including regulations, taxes, expenses from the new health care law, and the general state of the economy. But all of them agreed that another four years of Obama would slash their profit margin, and that pain would inevitability trickle down to their workers.

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One purported Las Vegas employer, who refused to give his real name, told Las Vegas radio station KXNT that he laid off 22 of his 114 employees after Obama's reelection, saying that he needed to free up some cash to cover the additional health care expenses. And the day after Obama's reelection, Murray Energy, the country's largest private coal company, laid off 156 workers, explaining in a Tuesday press release that Obama and his regulators were killing the market for coal (this was the single example given by Fox News).

One of the laid-off employees took to the anonymous forum Reddit, writing: "I've seen how corrupt the company can be over the years and am fairly certain the layoffs are just a way to make the President look bad." Inc.com pointed out that the coal company's production has actually been on the rise.

None of the CEOs who made public declarations before the election seem to have done what their employees feared. David Siegel, the billionaire founder and CEO of Florida-based Westgate Resorts, has already publicly backtracked. Siegal (pictured above) sent an email to his employees Wednesday explaining that he never actually intended to lay off anyone in an Obama second term, reports Orlando station WKMG, and that the media took his comments out of context. He actually gave everybody in the company a raise this week, telling Businessweek that this was "to help them handle the additional burdens the government will put on them."

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James Green, a labor historian at University of Massachusetts Boston, can't think of any recent example of employers actually laying off staff in response to a presidential election. It certainly happened back in the first few decades of the 20th century, he said. But those were days when textile and tobacco employers really ran their towns, and the lives of the people who called them home. "The company towns have gone away," says Green. "But the people who owned them are still around."

While certain corporations may see extra expenses in the coming years, Obama is really a "Wall Street Democrat," according to Green, who won't be launching the second-term assault on big business that some CEOs seem to imagine.

"There was an unprecedented desperation on behalf of the financial elite in this country to stave off Obama's reelection in this country," Green says. "And with the economy the way it was, they had every expectation they could do that."






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