Hanesbrands is run by Ebeneezer Scrooge

by Jim Longworth

I don’t normally write about the very same local topic twice in one year, but I am just too angry to do otherwise. That’s because last week, Hanesbrands CEO Richard Noll celebrated his company’s rise in stock price, which has more than doubled since September 2006.

Bragging to Wall Street and to his investors, Noll said, “The word credibility is absolutely spot-on…. We’ve had a very successful first year…. Investment confidence in our abilities to execute our strategies has increased.”

The problem is that Noll’s so-called strategies have consisted mainly of two things: shutting down plants in the United States and throwing Americans out of work. Over the past 12 months, Noll has closed 18 plants and five distribution centers and has eliminated nearly 11,000 jobs, including more than 1,000 in Winston-Salem. Concurrently, he has increased his workforce in Central America, with a net gain of more than 3,000 jobs.

This is the same man who, last year after his company spun off from Sara Lee, told the Winston-Salem Journal: “We will always be a major employer in Forsyth County”.

But now, in addition to the plant closings and layoffs, Noll will in December eliminate subsidies for retiree medical benefits. Well Merry f-ing Christmas!

This guy Noll is not just Ebeneezer Scrooge; he is Ebeneezer Screw-up. Any idiot can jack up profits and stock prices by closing plants and firing workers in favor of foreign slave labor.

So how can this man brag about his accomplishments? Is he that out of touch with reality, or is he just that ruthless?

Either way, Noll’s promise last fall was hollow. Even the historic flagship plant on Stratford Road has been closed, and now Noll plans to sell the 27-acre site to the highest bidder.

As I stated in my column from this past April, the Hanesbrands debacle is only happening because NAFTA and CAFTA made it possible. Now, market analysts say, Noll is only doing what must be done in order for the company to compete globally. Bull! CEOs like Noll are hiding behind the legality of these immoral trade agreements just so they can turn a profit. And when you profit from firing American workers, that’s economic terrorism.

All of this would have been bad enough if Noll had just been straight with his employees from the very start. But in addition to misleading them and firing them, he’s now rubbing salt in their wounds by preparing to eliminate their subsidized medical benefits.

In the past I called for a nationwide boycott of Hanesbrands products in hopes that we might send shareholders a message. I still recommend that course of action. In the meantime, Mayor Allen Joines should request that Noll donate the Stratford Road plant to the city of Winston-Salem. The building could then be turned over to groups like the Consumer Credit Counseling Service, the Urban League and others who are engaged in various types of job and financial counseling for those in need. In addition, the mayor should ask Noll to create and fund a first-class textile museum to be housed in the plant, fully staffed by former Hanesbrands employees and fully promoted throughout the region.

These are just a few ways in which Noll can do penance.

The Winston-Salem City Council and the city’s chamber of commerce should also issue a joint resolution in support of these measures, and include in their request that Noll reconsider his decision to eliminate medical benefits for retirees.

Unfortunately, I doubt that any of this will come to pass. And so, while Richard Noll celebrates what a great year he’s had, let us remember the thousands of families who are having a horrible year because of Noll’s greed, dishonesty and lack of empathy.

Earlier I referred to Noll as Ebeneezer Scrooge, but I only wish that were true. In Dickens’ novel, Scrooge was made to see the error of his ways. He repented and reversed the economic hardships which he had wrought. In real life, though, there’s no indication that either ghosts or an attack of conscience will visit Ebeneezer Noll. So congratulations on your stock price Ebeneezer. And God bless us, everyone.

Jim Longworth is the host of “Triad Today, which can be seen Friday mornings at 6:30 a.m. on ABC 45 (cable channel 7), and Sunday nights at 10 p.m. on WMYV 48 (cable channel 15).