Last week Circuit City announced layoffs of 3,400 “high paid” employees, saying it would replace them with lower-wage workers. It’s yet another example of the cruelty of a profit-driven, corporate-dominated system.

Circuit City says it had no choice, complaining of lower than expected fourth quarter profits.

Workers there make an average of $10-$11 an hour, with starting pay around $8.

Philip Schoonover, Circuit City CEO, made $8.52 million in 2006 — about equal to 300 of his highest paid workers.

The pay is one way a CEO is different from a worker. Another way is that, when it comes to explaining to you the difference between those computer hard drives, processing your exchange or refund, or loading that flat-panel TV into your car, the CEO is useless. While the workers of Circuit City labor hard — standing on their feet for hours, politely handling customer complaints, following arbitrary management rules, in short, making Circuit City run — the CEO is counting his cash, adding nothing material.

Were it not for Circuit City’s workers, the CEO would have nothing. The same is true in all workplaces in a capitalist society.

These 3,400 workers are not numbers, but human beings with families and lives thrown into chaos by the company’s greed.

What’s worse, analysts say the layoffs will have a “ripple effect” on other retailers.

How can Circuit City get away with such a crime? First, in our society it is not a crime to ruin people’s lives in this fashion. Second, these workers had no union. So one important lesson to be learned from this is the need for unions.

It’s a fact that goes back to the beginning of capitalism: workers have no power alone. They can’t beat the bosses, the corporations, single-handedly. The only way forward is through forming a union, through unity. If those 3,400 workers were part of a retail workers’ union, they would have had a contract, and would have been able to put up a fight against Circuit City.

Another lesson is that capitalism sucks.

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