Bye Miss American Pie
By Norma Sherry
just going to blurt it out; tell it like it is. In the words
of the venerable, Walter Cronkite, "that's the way it
is." Here it is folks: outsourcing is tantamount to legalized
Of course, it's much more than that to the American worker.
Ask anyone who is out of work, out of unemployment, on the
verge of losing their home and all that they worked for and
thought was their American dream come true. Their jobs by
the multi-millions have left the shores of the U.S. for greener,
cheaper labor. Slave labor.
A dollar an hour versus twenty-five or fourteen, or even
ten, you figure the math, big business, not-so-big business,
even the little businesses are moving in droves to lands faraway.
The problem with doing so, however, is multi-dimensional.
For the millions of American workers who have lost their
jobs, the prospects are very dim. Jody, who has worked as
an IT professional for twenty years, lost her job when her
company outsourced its workforce to a foreign land and foreign
workers. In five months, she hasn't been interviewed even
once despite her very marketable skills. When her unemployment
runs out, she fears she'll have no recourse but to sell their
Beverly says, "I completed my graduate degree in engineering
and truly thought that I was living the American dream."
That is until three years ago when she and her co-workers
watched as the jobs dwindled down and were shipped first to
Mexico and then elsewhere. All the years of bettering herself,
securing her future in the finality were measured in her ability
to instruct her replacement to do her job. Humiliation and
degradation were her reward.
Fern was in healthcare for thirty years. She watched as
nursing jobs were given to immigrant nurses rather than American
graduates. Sadly, she laments observing sweet, dedicated and
idealistic young women she trained become hardened and embittered.
How did this happen. Where were we? Did we have our heads
buried in the sand? Or were we preoccupied with the realities
of everyday life? Perhaps that's what our policy makers counted
on. But I can tell you one thing for certain. It didn't happen
In fact, it began to surface in the late 70's championed
by the very conservative Heritage Foundation. Under the auspices
of President Ronald Reagan, free trade "throughout the
hemisphere" was born.
But truth be known, the seeds were sown long before Ronald
Reagan. Richard Nixon was the first President given authority
in the 1974 Fast Track Bill. It was awarded every president
thereafter through 1998.
Fast Track gives the President sole authority over trade
negotiations. Congress, after the fact, can accept or reject
the negotiation, but it cannot amend it in any way whatsoever.
In effect, Fast Track effectively removes Congress from the
process of world trade negotiations.
Ronald Reagan, however, was the first to propose a free
trade agreement in his 1980 presidential campaign. Proudly,
The Heritage Foundation boasts its role in articulating President
Reagan's vision in no less than three dozen reports.
The Heritage Foundation predicted that free trade would,
"over a fifteen-year time span, create the world's largest
market: some 360 million people, with an economic output of
more than $6 trillion a year." Moreover, they asserted
that NAFTA would guarantee that American workers would remain
the most competitive in the world. That American consumers
would continue to have access to the world's finest goods
They also emphasized that NAFTA would assure Americans cheaper
goods while increasing U.S. exports to the rest of the world.
Moreover, the American workforce was told NAFTA would stimulate
and create an estimated 200,000 jobs annually.
Later, The Heritage Foundation wrote, "Economists are
virtually unanimous in their conclusion that the NAFTA will
have a strongly positive impact on job growth throughout the
US, with most estimates in the hundreds of thousands."
They also predicted NAFTA would effectively reduce illegal
immigration from Mexico, would be instrumental in tackling
drug trafficking, would strengthen Mexican democracy and human
rights, and above all else, would serve as a model for the
rest of the world. It all sounded peachy.
Lofty predilections. The only aspect that has proven true
for Americans is "cheaper goods." Instead of the
200,000 promised new jobs yearly for Americans, American workers
are losing their jobs – to date, conservatively speaking by
2.7 million. The rate of which is growing steadily. As a matter
of fact, 200,000 additional jobs were lost to American workers
in September alone. However, The Heritage Foundation and the
Office of the US Trade Representative (USTR) say the converse
The USTR offers, "Too often, bad news grips the imagination,
while good news goes unheard. In a dynamic economy such as
ours, it is not surprising to hear of some firms closing shop.
However, in a typical month, our country gains a net of over
150,000 jobs." My guess is these jobs are akin to a hologram.
Sarcasm aside, the numbers simply don't jive.
As to the remaining gobbledy-gook, it doesn't take a rocket
scientist to know the dire state of the American economic
picture. According to the Congressional Budget Office, the
forecast looks very bleak with the national deficit expected
to reach $480 billion next year with unemployment continuing
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported, "Long-term
unemployment is at its highest in over a decade." The
BLS stated, "The last time the share of long-term unemployed
surpassed this level was 20 years ago, in September 1983.
BLS also reported the startling decline in education employment
as the largest one-month loss since July 1982.
There are 1.4 million individuals stuck in the quagmire
of personal bankruptcy. According to foreclosures.com, foreclosures
are at record highs, especially homes in the upper six figures.
Bank One in Chicago anticipates a tidal wave of foreclosures
in 2004. Bleak, how about downright abject gloom?
Perhaps we overlooked the loss of jobs because, well, they
were just factory workers, after all - and besides, clothing
was never cheaper. Cheaper is the key word, not merely less
expensive, but threadbare cheap, made to literally fall apart
after a few month's of laundering.
Then words such as, "child labor", "slave
labor" and "abusive, horrendous working conditions",
started seeping into the American psyche. Clothing designers
went on the defensive, but they needn't have concerned themselves,
the uproar was short-lived. The consumer greed won out. After
all, cheap is cheap - and nothing wins like saving money!
The consumer then began to notice that there were fewer
and fewer American-made automobiles. Advertising agencies
expounded on the consumer concern and began a national advertising
campaign to buy, "Made in America" automobiles,
et cetera, et cetera. However, despicable as Corporate America
is, the truth that nearly no part of an American car or truck,
van, or SUV is made in America mattered not.
NAFTA has made us partners with the countries of the world
with whom we do business. It has made us culpable to the abuses
and horrifying conditions workers of the world work under.
And we know it. Our legislators know it. Corporate America
knows it - and yet, we allow it to continue.
A famous film company reportedly pays Bangladesh workers
between eight and nineteen cents an hour toiling in deplorable,
sub-human conditions for 14 to 15 hours a day. Corporate America
knows it, so do our legislators, and yet we still buy their
products. Corporate America rushes to their shore anxiously
bringing their contracts and opening their factories.
The World Trade Organization (WTO) protects corporations
but abashedly, blatantly ignores the torturous existence of
laborers. Burma, ruled by a military dictatorship since 1962
is a very poor, yet resource rich country. It is also a haven
for sweatshops and many American corporations.
Until 2000 and adverse publicity threatened their bottom-line,
Anheuser-Busch, Apple, Estee Lauder, Hewlett-Packard, Macy's,
Ralph Lauren, Oshkosh B'Gosh, Levi-Strauss, Liz Claiborne,
and many more did business with Burma. Colgate, General Electric,
Ford, Halliburton, Gillette, Jordache, Lockheed, Nautica,
Adidas, Chase Manhattan Corp, Proctor and Gamble, and Perry
Ellis are among the businesses that continued to do business
with Burma after 2000.
In Burma, Unocal was named in a human rights lawsuit in
the course of building its pipeline. The suit charged Unocal
knowingly used forced labor. Hundreds of eyewitnesses testified
that the government's military provided Unocal with unpaid
labor by forcing thousands of villagers to work at gunpoint.
Reportedly, women who refused to work were raped or murdered.
In 2000, a California Federal Court found Unocal blameless
because they did not have direct participation in the wrongful
acts. The case and the appeals are stalemated. In 2003, the
Bush Administration filed a brief on behalf of Unocal arguing
that allowing the case to go to trial could interfere with
US foreign policy and even disrupt the war on terrorism.
Eight months ago, when I called my Dell Computer Support
Department to register my new laptop, my phone call was routed
to India. The helpful young man on the phone and I became
chatty. He was very excited about his new job, although he
still had to live at home with his parents and couldn't afford
to marry. He was 34 years old. He was on his twelfth hour
of a fourteen-hour day. He earned $9 a day! A day - and he
was happy. Before Dell, he earned less than a dollar a day.
When I hung up the telephone, I cried.
Yet, in India, a country that Corporate America is actively
outsourcing American jobs to in record-breaking numbers is
a country that purportedly exploits and abuses children as
laborers. Working conditions are often filthy and many bosses
are worse than inhumane. NAFTA and WTO turn a blind eye; so
do our rich and super-rich corporations.
Rajesh is a partner in an executive search firm. He is well
educated, from the Indian Institute of Management - Ahmedabad,
as are many of his counter-parts. Rajesh refers to his alma
mater as "The Harvard of the East". He also bemoans
regrettably, that so many of his brethren with MBA's are applying
for call center jobs. A waste of their impeccable and hard-earned
degrees. But until America actively sought employees from
India, opportunity was dismal.
Rajesh's firm offers accent trainers to teach Indians to
speak like a Yankee; there are soft skill trainers teaching
how to approach an American client. He has an event manager
that updates and teaches about American events and festivals
and he says they have doctors on the premises and on call
because working odd hours, Rajesh says, "has its consequences.
Health is definitely a concern."
Obviously, Rajesh is not one of the employers that disregard
his employees. In fact, he is a man of great sensitivity and
grace. He struggles with the concerns of Americans and he
worries about their anger about their jobs going abroad. "So
much money has been invested. So much controversy. Such uncertainties."
The sole winner for outsourcing is Corporate America. Everyone
After 9/11, President Bush announced to the world "that
if any country harbored, fed, housed, or protected terrorists,
then they would be as guilty as the terrorists." Does
the same not hold true for us if we do business with countries
that abuse workers; that enslave women and children? Does
it not count because we have the entitlement of NAFTA and
WTO? Are we not breaking the greater laws of human dignity?
Now our President wants to Fast Track NAFTA and WTO and
open free trade to all of Latin America. Considering the supreme
success NAFTA has been to the American worker, his motivation
is very clear indeed. Money talks…
Pointing fingers and assessing blame is a favorite pastime
of the left and the right, the Democrats and the Republicans.
It would appear that there is plenty of blame on both sides
of the fence. Richard Nixon may have grandfathered the concept
that begat NAFTA. It may have been Ronald Reagan that first
introduced it and George Bush, Sr., who endorsed it, and Bill
Clinton who signed it momentously into law. But of all the
candidates running for the office of President of the United
States, only one promises to repeal NAFTA the day after he
is sworn into office.
Perhaps it is time for the electorate to put our elected
officials on notice. Perhaps it is time that we find our voice
and express our displeasure in the only way they seem capable
of hearing. Perhaps we should write our legislators and let
them know that we are adamantly opposed to The Thomas Bill,
HR 3005, because it will catapult the further decline of the
American worker. NAFTA and WTO and President Bush's new Fast
Track are designed to destroy the American worker and to further
demoralize and destroy the countries on faraway shores and
keep everyone beholding to Corporate America.
It's time to just say no!
Norma Sherry is co-founder of Together Forever Changing,
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.
She can be reached at email@example.com
Side Note: Norma Sherry will be a guest on the national
radio show, The Chris Moore Show, Saturday, November 15th
from 7 - 8 pm, 1020 on the AM dial, KDKA, Pittsburgh, Pa.
She will be discussing outsourcing. Listeners can call-in.