Carly Fiorina is running for president, and as CNN points out “it’s hard to run for president when your name is synonymous with massive layoffs.” Fiorina was CEO of Hewlett-Packard in 2002 when she insisted, over the objections of the Hewlett and Packard families, to merge with Compaq. The merger was a disaster, and it led to the layoffs of 30,000 people and the shipping of jobs overseas during Fiorina’s tenure as CEO, which ended with her being terminated in February 2005. These numbers do not include an additional 15,000-plus jobs HP was forced to cut in the five months after she left, and overall, more than 100,000 job cuts since Fiorina left. Interestingly, Meg Whitman, HP’s current CEO, is now spinning off the PC unit that Fiorina created with the Compaq merger.
Fiorina has surprised many by her rise in the polls after the last Republican debate, and CNN reported there is now a super PAC website dedicated to describing her journey — fromsecretarytoceo.com — which is also soliciting personal stories under the banner “Have you worked with Carly? Tell your story.”
Fiorina ought to be careful about what she asks for since she tried a similar tactic of spinning her tenure at HP during her 2010 race for the Senate seat held by Barbara Boxer of California. However, Fiorina’s tactic was stopped dead by campaign ads the Boxer team ran featuring former employees telling their stories: “While Californians lost their jobs, Fiorina tripled her salary, bought a million-dollar yacht and five corporate jets,” one of the ads said. From another: “Carly Fiorina. Outsourcing jobs. Out for herself.” Boxer even had former employees speaking on camera: “She shipped our jobs to China,” one employee identified as Teri said. And an employee identified as Farrell added: “I had to pack my bags — and I was out the door that night.” Fiorina, on the other hand, received a $40-million severance, though she claims to have only collected $20 million.
Consider how Fiorina likes to tell this Horatio Alger story as her super PAC site likes to say, from secretary to boardroom. Fiorina lived a privileged life; her father was dean of Duke Law, while she attended Stanford and also received a Master’s from MIT’s Sloan School of Management. The Washington Post has this to say about her Horatio Alger story “Fiorina uses a familiar, ‘mailroom to boardroom’ trope of upward mobility that the public is familiar with, yet her story is nothing like that. In telling her only-in-America story, she conveniently glosses over the only-for-Fiorina opportunities and options beyond what the proverbial mailroom worker has. As such, she earns Three Pinocchios.”
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Opinion columnist and former editor-in-chief of Occupy Democrats. He graduated from Bennington College with a Bachelor's degree in history and political science. He now focuses on advancing the cause of social justice and equality in America.