International Paper layoffs hit hard at Christmas.
Layoffs at the International Paper mill in Courtland are starting, unfortunately during the holiday season.
We say that acknowledging the bitter irony — that the final three months of the year, or the fourth quarter, produce a full third of annual layoffs.
IP is following a trend that has been established over almost two decades, according to figures from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
We hesitate to look backward, because the myth of "the good old days" is often stamped by selective memory.
But the truth is many employers once were hesitant to lay off workers before the holidays. Characters such as Mr. Potter of "It's a Wonderful Life" or Dickens' Ebenezer Scrooge were deemed skinflints, morally depraved rich men who cared nothing for the struggles of the common man.
Today, they would be deemed shrewd businessmen. Even business colleges teach such principles, because clearing the company's books before the end of the year allows them to start the new year without the expenses of severance packages.
For publicly traded companies, which lay off a disproportionate number of workers compared to privately owned businesses, the rewards to those high on the corporate ladder can be enriching.
The impact on the workforce at large, obviously, is quite the opposite.
That's not a compliment to the state of humanity in 2013.
More and more, we're left to fend for ourselves. For large-business employees, raised and educated to serve as a labor force for corporations in the historic German economic system, that makes the holiday season especially perilous.
At IP, more than 100 workers will be laid off by month's end. That's barely 10 percent of the total that will follow in the first quarter of 2014. Their situations are hardly envious.
But the feeling of losing a job weeks before Christmas seems not only un-American, but un-Christian.
It's simple to blame IP. The company clearly has been running an unsustainable business model, and its leadership has been more honorable than some in giving workers a three- to six-month heads up that their jobs are going away.
IP, county governments and local churches are conducting job fairs, but we know the hopes of obtaining replacement income levels are slim for the majority.
It's a good time to keep IP workers in our prayers. But more than that, it's important to hold our leaders — whether in government or private business — accountable for their deeds.
Let's make a conscious effort to recognize who we do business with. Let's take a long, hard look at those who are willing to take bonuses while handing out pink slips.
Not too long ago, that would have been an embarrassment for any self-respecting business leader.