Hanesbrands needs one more layoff

by Jim Longworth

I promised my friends that I would try and stop obsessing about the devastation wrought by Hanesbrands’ CEO Richard Noll. After all, no one in my immediate family was affected by Noll’s massive layoffs. Nor did anyone in my extended family lose their subsidized medical benefits.

The problem is that each week, Noll seems to find yet another way to rub salt in the wounds of those he has wounded, and that compels me to jump back into the fray.

Anyway, there I was, minding my own business, resolved to not writing about Hanesbrands ever again, when three things happened in rapid succession.

First I received a videotape and press release from Hanesbrands’ public relations folks, bragging about how the company had struck a deal with Disney to supply T-shirts and such to Uncle Walt’s theme parks. The problem is that those T-shirts aren’t made by anyone who watches my TV show or reads my newspaper column. Noll’s T-shirt makers live in Asia, Mexico and the Dominican Republic.

Yet we here in the Triad are supposed to be excited for Noll when his press release gleefully states the Disney deal is worth “tens of millions of dollars.” To whom?! Certainly not to the folks Noll displaced. What is his PR guy smoking?

Second, Hanesbrands last week announced it had donated $100,000 in aid to some of its 7,800 employees affected by a recent storm. The problem is that those employees are in the Dominican Republic instead of on Stratford Road, and the storm aid wouldn’t have been necessary if Noll paid the Domincans what he had been paying the 12,000 Americans whose jobs they took. Chew on that multi-layered irony for a moment.

And third, I’ve been receiving feedback from former Hanesbrands employees who thanked me for standing up for them, and asked that I continue to do so.

Given these three recent developments, I had no choice but to give another wedgie to the greedy underwear maker.

Clearly any CEO who continues to demonstrate a total lack of sensitivity to the thousands of families he disrupted, should be replaced by his board. It’s okay to be an insensitive bean counter behind the scenes, but the man at the top should at least feign compassion and concern.

Noll is ultimately to blame for the hardships he has created, but I also think he hasn’t been well served by his public relations folks, be they internal or outsourced, or both.

Newsflash, laying off 12,000 American workers is nothing to brag about.

Eliminating retirees’ subsidized medical benefits at Christmastime is nothing to brag about.

A jump in your stock price is nothing to brag about considering that your earnings only increased because you slashed thousands of jobs here at home, and eliminated the aforementioned benefits.

Transferring US jobs to Asia, Mexico and the Dominican Republic where you pay slave wages in order to make more profit is nothing to brag about.

Signing an exclusive deal with Disney to sell T-shirts made by low-wage-earning foreigners is nothing to brag about.

And, donating $100,000 to Dominican employees affected by a storm is nothing to brag about, particularly after laying off 12,000 Americans who face a storm of their own.

Wall Street types like to defend Noll by saying he was forced to send jobs out of the country due to global competition. Oh yeah? I don’t recall Noll suffering financially from paying a decent wage to Americans. Hanesbrands just wanted to make more profit, and that’s no reason to order massive layoffs and bring hardship to thousands of US workers and their families.

Well, now it’s time for Noll to be laid off. Until then, the Winston-Salem Chamber of Commerce should censure Hanesbrands, and the rest of us should boycott their products.

The name Hanes used to stand for community need, not corporate greed. It’s time to restore the jobs and the name.

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