Last week the bankrupt Eastman Kodak Co. filed a motion in U.S. Bankruptcy Court after reaching a deal with the committee representing its 56,000 retirees to end their healthcare benefits by the end of the year. This news has not gone down well in Rochester, NY – the city which Kodak has called home since it was established by George Eastman in 1892. At one time Kodak had 60,000 employees in Rochester: one in every four Rochesterians were employed at Kodak either working in the State Street Head Offices or, more likely, in the sprawling manufacturing complex known as Kodak Park. Before the start of its economic free fall which resulted in a bankruptcy filing in January 2012, Eastman Kodak was a great place to work – offering job security for life and very generous benefits.
Today, Kodak employs less than 5000 workers in Rochester (with more layoffs coming) but there are many more thousands of retired Kodakers living in the city livid about this most recent announcement. Democrat and Chronicle writer, Erika Bryant has just written an article taking aim at CEO Antonio Perez which provides a taste of this anger. However, the comments at the end of Bryant’s article are where the gloves come off. Kodak appears to have become a poster child for “the lost decade” – a time when manufacturing jobs in the West, and the lifestyle that came with – have disappeared. While Kodak is victim of a technological paradigm shift – they have not been replaced by any similar corporations that provide the kind of jobs and compensation which have supported many generations of workers in the US and abroad.