While there is no way to confirm how many IBM employees were cut as part of a company-wide layoff, it appears that Big Blue can no longer be listed as Rochester's second largest employer.
Insiders have confirmed layoffs were underway in Rochester Wednesday, possibly continuing into today. Always silent about employee issues, IBM is continuing its 7-year-old tradition of not discussing layoff numbers.
Lee Conrad, national coordinator of the pro-union group Alliance@IBM, said Wednesday afternoon that only one report had come in to his organization so far. A Rochester IBM employee sent a note that stated: "Management confirmed report of 975 being let go in Rochester, Minn., today and tomorrow. Sad, Sad, Sad."
Conrad was dubious that such a large number could be cut in Rochester alone. He noted that IBM has not filed any notifications of such a large reduction ahead of time to meet the requirements of the federal Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act.
IBM has rarely filed such notices in Minnesota, despite conducting layoffs at least once or twice a year in the past decade. In 2013, it did confirm a Trade Adjustment Assistance petition for state workforce training help for 200 laid-off employees.
Conrad described Wednesday as "a bad day for IBM employees and their families."
No matter how many IBMers lost their jobs in Rochester this week, it looks like Big Blue may have lost its traditional spot as the city's second largest employer to the Rochester Public School District.
Rochester Area Economic Development Inc. lists Mayo Clinic as the top local employer with 35,000 on staff. Despite not having any local numbers from IBM since the 4,200 it reported in 2008, RAEDI continues to list IBM as the next largest employer with "Not Available" in place of an employee number.
In April 2014, RAEDI listed Rochester Public Schools as third largest employer with 2,460 on its payroll. The school district reported this week that number has grown to 2,624 employees. Olmsted County is listed as the fourth largest employer, with 1,204 workers.
Prior to the start of this week's layoffs, an IBM employee filtered the internal company-wide employee directory from the "Bluepages" intranet through a spread sheet to calculate how many work in Rochester. The tally came out at 2,300 full-time IBM employees. A similar calculation came out at 2,740 in November 2013. The calculation was duplicated by two other employees.
This week's calculation would need to be off by almost 400 to allow IBM to keep the second place slot. IBM did not reply to questions about its employee numbers Wednesday.
If IBM has slipped down to the third place, it would be the first time since 1967 that its numbers were surpassed in Rochester.
IBM was the city's top employer for much of the late 1950s and early 1960s. In 1966, Mayo Clinic tied it, when each employed 3,600 workers. Mayo pulled ahead in 1967 with 3,850 employees compared to IBM's 3,800. Mayo Clinic has since lapped IBM many times, particularly in recent decades.
In the past couple of years, IBM has vacated several buildings on its campus and then leased that space to outside tenants, like cable-television provider Charter Communications. Prior to that, it pulled the last of its people out of what was once known as the "IBM White Buildings," now called the 41st Street Professional Campus. The 435,000-square-foot 41st Street campus, which is near IBM's main site, originally was built to house Big Blue's employees, but it was no longer needed as IBM's employee count shrunk.