I find popular rationalizations that offshore outsourcing is good for the economy and good for America to be both offensive and intellectually shallow.
The vast majority of the American middle class do not have the wealth, education or flexibility in their personal lives to handle forced job or career changes without severely impacting their families.
It seems to me that economic arguements supporting offshore (out)sourcing rely on one-dimensional justification -- corporate profit and loss. Who is looking at the resulting damage to our social institutions and traditions? Who is tallying the personal costs of worker dislocation and forced job mobility? Who is concerned that this is just another wedge that increases the economic separation between the upper and middle classes?
The offshore outsourcing of jobs has only recently begun to be tracked by our government. Those who lose manufacturing jobs to offshoring are entitled to special benefits such as extended unemployment for two years, retraining and partial payment of their health plan benefits. There have been bills introduced to also give high-tech workers the same benefits, but none have become law as of the current legislative session.
It would seem that it's you and I, the general public, that are not only looking at the damage to our livelihoods, but we are feeling the devastating effect firsthand. Those that have climbed the ladder of success by obtaining a higher education and skills that were supposed to provide for us in the future are now competing for jobs with those who would normally fill the lower paid jobs. We have been told for many years to go to school to get the required skills that will take us into the next century. With over 300,000 engineers and 200,000 computer specialists that have lost their jobs, how do we tell our younger generation to go to school in these fields with little or no chance to find employment?
Corporate profit (or as we call it, corporate greed) is taking its toll on our middle class. Those who have spent their entire adult life dedicated to working for what were once great companies are now faced with the reality of losing their jobs, pensions and health benefits. These companies state that they cannot find people with the required skills and therefore need to hire foreign temporary visa workers, and, in many cases, the worker who loses his/her job must train these replacement workers before they themselves are laid off. Over the past six years almost 3 million H-1B and/or L-1 work visas have been issued. These are not for supplemental workers, but are for cheaper replacement workers.
TORAW and many organizations like ours have been addressing the use of foreign visa workers and the offshoring of our jobs with members of Congress, who have introduced bills to change the current work visa laws to protect the American worker. We must insist that these bills, or ones like them, become law. Our very livelihoods are being impacted on a daily basis, and we must become part of the solution. Our voices and our votes are our only opportunity to affect change. It was thought that members of Congress knew what was occurring to the American workplace, but it was only after personal letters to them in their home districts did they pay attention to the problems. In order to take control of our own futures we must get involved with the solutions, by joining an organization or by sending a barrage of personal letters to your own members of Congress, or both.
This was first published in November 2004