By Joseph Kishore in the USA:
The bankruptcy of Kodak
20 January 2012
With the bankruptcy of Eastman Kodak on Thursday morning, another iconic American corporation is seeking court protection. The bankruptcy filing is the culmination of two decades of layoffs and downsizing that have reduced what was once a dominant manufacturer of photographic equipment to a shell of its former self.
As always, the court-supervised proceedings will be used by the company as an opportunity to further its attack on workers and its tens of thousands of retirees, who will see health benefits slashed or eliminated alltogether. Kodak currently employs about 18,800 workers, after cutting 47,000 jobs and shutting down 13 manufacturing plants since 2003.
If and when the company emerges from bankruptcy, it will likely be much smaller, “restructured” to ensure a sufficient return on investment for its major investors.
Among the immediate factors behind Kodak’s remarkable decline over the past two decades has been its failure to compete in digital photography. Its rise and fall, however, reflects the crisis not just of one company, but of American capitalism as a whole.
Kodak, headquartered in Rochester, an industrial city in upstate New York, was founded in the 1880s. It grew rapidly in the first half of the 20th century, and was a pioneer in consumer photography, paralleling the rise of auto production and other mass industries in the United States. It developed the first film stored in a roll, the first hand-held camera—a version of which was broadly available to consumers at the price of $1—and the first 35mm color film, invented in 1935.
By 1927, Kodak had grown to employ 20,000 workers. This rose to 60,000 in 1946, 100,000 in 1966, and 120,000 in 1973. It continued to grow in the 1980s, though the expansion of production was largely supplanted by the acquisition of diverse subsidiaries such as printing and medical imaging. Employment peaked at 145,300 in 1988. In just over two decades, its workforce has been slashed by about 83 percent.