Movie theater chain Regal Cinemas announced today that they would be firing 20,000 workers as they close down all 536 of their locations in the United States, citing lost income because of the pandemic. Regal is the second largest cinema chain in the country, and took in $2.1 billion of revenue last year from its U.S. theaters alone.
Regal is far from the only corporate giant passing along the burden of the economic crisis to its employees. Last week Disney announced 28,000 layoffs affecting workers at the company’s entertainment parks. The firings are scheduled to begin in early December, leaving employees jobless at the same time as many expect a surge in Coronavirus infections and a subsequent worsening of the economy.
Disney executives, who took a paycut as the pandemic began, reportedly had their salaries restored to their full levels at the end of August.
Also last week, American Airlines announced 19,000 layoffs and United Airlines said they were cutting 13,000 jobs. The fate of tens of thousands of airline workers is being cynically used as a bargaining chip by industry executives as they seek to secure another enormous bailout from Congress.
The stimulus bill passed in March at the onset of the pandemic included a $32 billion fund to the major U.S. carriers. Under that arrangement, companies received huge payments in return for capping mass firings at 10 percent of their workforce. Instead of being nationalized, the airlines received public rescue funds but remained under private ownership. As negotiations on a new Coronavirus relief bill stalls in Congress, American and United are plunging tens of thousands of their employees into deep uncertainty in an attempt to secure an additional $28 billion from the government.
No “recovery” for the working class
“The mass layoffs are an indication that major sectors of the US economy are still crashed and they’re not going to recover very soon. The mass layoffs are going to deepen and spread” argued economist and author Dr. Jack Rasmus, saying that taken together the Regal, Disney and airline firings “represent a second wave of permanent layoffs in key sectors of the economy.”
Last month, Donald Trump asserted that the country is “in the midst of the fastest economic recovery in U.S. history” and that “our rise is spectacular”. But Rasmus told Liberation News that a recovery in terms of overall economic growth does not necessarily mean a recovery in the job market. “A jobs recession lasts a lot longer than a GDP recession. A jobs recessions can extend years and years after GDP recovers,” he explained, and said that phenomena such as advances in artificial intelligence and machine learning are likely to exacerbate this trend.
While billionaires are doing better than ever, and the job market for highly paid professionals has fully recovered, the lower-paid sectors of the working class continue to be devastated by the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. The 20,000 cinema workers who learned they were out of a job today join millions of others who have been cast aside as U.S. corporations ruthlessly attempt to return to profitability.