Democratic Underground  

The Perils of Outsourcing
October 28, 2003
By Norma Sherry

Are American workers at risk of losing their jobs? Damn right they are. Particularly if they pursued what they thought were safe jobs in today's commerce.

When American workers lost their blue-collar jobs they stepped up to the plate and educated themselves in the technologies that they were told would assure them security. Sadly, corporate America lied. Not only are American workers losing their coveted jobs, but in unprecedented moves they are being asked to train their replacements.

The consequences are mortifying.

By now, most of us have experienced calling an organization we have done business with before only to find the overtly sweet voice on the other end of the receiver has a thick, almost unintelligible foreign accent.

Well, folks, get used to it.

By the thousands jobs are being exported, or the new word, outsourced, to India, Hong Kong, Peoples Republic of China, Panama, Manila, The Philippines; and many other countries where the local citizens speak English. Jobs are moving offshore to any country where the populace is accustomed to working for pennies a day. Any sum above a dollar in many cases, is the beginning to middle-class wealth and vast change of lifestyle.

Are you wondering how to safeguard yourself? It's not very promising, but here's the scoop. All manufacturing careers are going overseas. It's as simple and as appalling as that.

Since 1986, 15 million high-paying manufacturing jobs have left the US and American workers. Need a second to take absorb that? It's startling, I know. But the horrifying truth is, sooner than you think, not a single automobile, airplane, or ship will be assembled or manufactured in the land of free, home of the brave. It won't be long thereafter, that all manufacturers wanting to stay competitive will seek to bring their businesses to the millions of workers overseas. After all, they are willing to work for a pittance without the contrivance or interference of nasty unions, health benefits, 401K's, and the multitude of perks the American worker has worked hard to achieve.

Be on notice, American workers. If your job can be performed as well elsewhere, you are in grave danger of being made redundant. If your job relies on computer skills, telephone skills, manufacturing… your days are numbered. Any job that can be performed in another location, preferably outside of the realm of American wages and American work-related laws, are going.

If you're a nurse or a physician, a medical technician, a physical therapist, even a nurse's aide, you're safe… at least for the time being. But if you're an x-ray technician, watch out. According to Irwin Kellner, a professor of economics at Hofstra University in New York, already many films are transmitted via the Internet and read abroad. Kellner also says, however, that "We will manage not only to muddle through but to create jobs to add to our overall well-being," He also says he has, "…faith in the system. Somehow or another, we'll create jobs that can't be exported overseas."

Other experts in the field are not quite so idealistic. Diane Morello, research director and VP at Gartner, Inc., estimates that "based on her preliminary calculations, at least 500,000 jobs will be lost to offshore outsourcing by the end of 2004." Her company report also dimly states, "one out of 10 jobs in the US computer services and software sector could move overseas by the end of next year". Furthermore, the study indicates that "while professionals in the computer industry will be especially hard-hit, IT jobs in other sectors such as banking, health-care, and insurance will also feel the impact, with one in 20 being exported to emerging markets such as Russia, India, or other countries in Southeast Asia.

According to the Washington Post, 2.5 million factory jobs have disappeared since 2001.

If you're a draftsman, an architect, a computer programmer, a graphic designer, your days are numbered. If you're a plumber, electrician, construction worker, contractor, bricklayer, you're secure for now.

A young software executive states, "He's allowed to hire whomever he wants - as long as they live in India or Australia." Another American executive says, "We've got one company that's closing a support facility here to move it to Asia, and another that doesn't even try to fill jobs at home. There's something vaguely unpatriotic about all this. Especially when the jobs are answering the phone to talk to American customers or developing programs to be sold primarily to American companies."

Stuart Yasgur and Ernie Nounou wrote in Business Week that:

Common knowledge says that we are in the midst of a 'Jobless Recovery.' After all, while the United States economy recovered statistically from the 'mild' recession in 2001, unemployment has risen from 4% to 6% - a whopping 50% increase. Urban centers like New York City, which had a January unemployment rate of 8.6%, have been particularly hard hit. What is not commonly known, however, is that jobs have been created during this recovery, just not in places like New York City, San Francisco, or even Flint, Michigan. Jobs have been created in places like India, Jamaica, the Philippines, and even Sri Lanka. The National Association of Software and Service Companies (Nasscom), an association of software and IT-enabled services companies, estimates that India's IT-enabled services industry grew by 70% during 2001-2002.

So, dear reader, if you pick up your telephone and dial an out-of-state customer support number, don't be surprised if your phone call is redirected outside the United States and the techie on the other end is speaking to you from another country.

Our jobs and the jobs of our fellow Americans are being sent abroad so that giant corporations can save money by farming work outside of America and far from American workers. I don't know about you, but I'm mad as hell and I don't want to take it anymore.

The very companies we made rich by buying their products - their computers, their software, their clothing, their kitchen gadgets, their televisions - are thanking us by taking the jobs of our citizens and moving them, excuse me, outsourcing them, to countries and a workforce far from our shores. They're doing this for one reason and one reason only: the Almighty Dollar. It's despicable.

If we don't do something and do something quick, it's going to be too late. Our lifestyle and our wealth will cease to exist as we know it. The wealthy few will be the corporate entities that outsourced their workforce.

After Shirley Turner, a Democratic state senator from New Jersey discovered that a program from her state, Families First - which provides welfare recipients with grocery debit cards - had been outsourced to Mumbai, India, she proposed bill No. 1349. Her bill, which was approved unanimously by the New Jersey Senate in December 2002, would require all state contracts to be performed by either US citizens or foreign citizens who work legally in the United States.

Following her lead, Connecticut, Maryland, Missouri, and Wisconsin all have similar bills under consideration. However, folks, this is a very small pebble making tiny ripples. It is time we stepped up to the plate.

We need to revolt. We need to get mad as hell and unwilling to take this anymore. Not just because corporate America is a lethal indignity; not just because truth in advertising is a lie; not just because American jobs are being shipped out of the country. We need to realize we are the power, we can make this a better world, a better place in which to raise the next generation. We can start here and now and tell the Microsofts, the McAfees and Nortons, the Gateways, the Dells, our telephone companies, our insurance companies, and our Internet providers that if they want our business, they are going to have to earn it… and they're going to have to keep on earning it.

We need to boycott products that are outsourced. We need to write letters to our representatives and our local newspapers. We need to make our voices heard. We need to parade in front of corporate offices and hold banners high and shout out loud "We are mad as hell and we are not going to take this anymore!" We need to write to the CEOs and write them again and tell them how we feel. But first and foremost, we need to stop buying their products and their services.

Finally, we need to safeguard ourselves by being prepared for the possibility that we may need to fit into a new workforce.


Norma Sherry is co-founder of TogetherForeverChanging.org, an organization devoted to educating, stimulating, and igniting personal responsibility particularly with regards to our diminishing civil liberties. She is also an award-winning writer/producer. Her email: norma@togetherforeverchanging.org

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