IBM job cuts clip Rochester, again

Rochester's IBM campus employs around 2,500 people.
MPR Photo/Sea Stachura

Another round of layoffs has hit the IBM workforce in Rochester.

IBM officials do not comment on cuts. But Lee Conrad, national coordinator for the labor group Alliance@IBM, estimates several dozen Rochester jobs were lost in the latest reductions.

The company reported 4,000 employees in Rochester in 2008, the most recent official count. Conrad says the Rochester workforce is now more likely between 2,500 and 2,800 employees.

"Morale is pretty much at rock bottom inside IBM," Conrad said. "Everyone knows the company's in trouble and they need to make some fixes. But they're firing the people that can help fix the company, and that's just unacceptable."

For decades, the Minnesota facility has manufactured products from personal computers to network equipment. But in recent years, the company has downsized its workforce. In 2013, IBM moved some of its Minnesota operations to New York and Mexico. Last year, IBM leaders laid off more workers in Rochester.

Conrad said employees at the Rochester operations may not know until next week how many jobs were cut. He foresees the day when the company might shutter the plant completely. "They've done it at other sites ... it can happen anywhere," he said.

As IBM's Rochester workforce shrinks, the company has more empty space on its 82-acre campus and other companies like Hitachi and Charter Communications have started contracting office space in the facility.

Nationwide, union officials estimate IBM has about 80,000 employees, down from roughly 280,000 in the mid-1980s.

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