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Protesters to rally against offshore outsourcing

Inside a New York hotel, the theme is offshore outsourcing. Outside the hotel, the theme is onshore outrage. Protesters are asking John Q. Public and Uncle Sam to wake up and smell the losses to cheap overseas labor.

At the Strategic Research Institute's conference this week on offshore outsourcing, experts and executives are offering their insights on how companies can save money by farming certain jobs overseas.

Outside the Westin Times Square in New York, where the conference is taking place, some people are expressing a totally different view. They're focused on saving jobs and stopping what they feel is the familiar "great sucking noise" coming from the opposite side of the ocean.

Protesters from at least seven workers' organizations are involved -- rallying against offshore outsourcing and the loss of U.S. jobs to cheaper overseas labor. It's a trend that will claim one in 20 IT jobs by the end of this year, according to analysis firm Gartner Inc.

"We don't want to cause a massive problem," said Fred Tedesco, co-founder of Waterbury, Conn.-based MAD in the USA, one of the groups that organized the protest. "We're not going to stop traffic or stop people from going in. Our goal is to put multinational companies on notice and educate the American public."

"We've had IT firms in Connecticut that offered to beat foreign firms by a dollar and were told no," said John Bauman, president of Meriden, Conn.-based TORAW (The Organization for the Rights of American Workers, another organizer of the event. "This tells you the type of competition that's out there."

Bauman said that the offshore trend affects not only IT but all workers. Anyone who works at a computer terminal could have his job sent overseas, Bauman said.

"[The Strategic Defense Institute has] got all these speakers, and they'll tell you how good it is to send things offshore," he said. But at some point, Bauman added, there won't be any jobs left: "Are we all going to be flipping burgers? Will anyone be able to afford a burger?"

Bauman, Tedesco and company aren't just venting. They're holding this rally to raise public awareness of the offshore shift and break what they see as a corporate shroud of secrecy. Big firms, they say, don't like to talk about their offshore deals, because they know it brings bad publicity.

David Foote, president and chief research officer of Foote Partners LLC in New Canaan, Conn., agrees. "[IT executives] know there's a bit of a hammer coming down [to cut costs], and they don't want to talk about it publicly, because they know it will affect their workers," he said.

But sometimes, the word gets out. The Wall Street Journal reported last week that, beginning in 2006, IBM expects to save $168 million annually by shipping jobs offshore. That's not exactly news Big Blue wants the general public to know. "We're going to blow it up where they're going to have to answer to people," Tedesco said. At the protest, he plans to hand out flyers urging Americans to write their banks and insurers to ask whether each company is using foreign labor -- and, if they are, to demand that they stop. "Americans can be involved in saving their own jobs," he said.

A different view is being put forth by Nasscom, an organization of Indian IT firms and perhaps the biggest cheerleader for India's IT services market. Nasscom says that offshore outsourcing actually helps the U.S. economy. In an e-mail to, Nasscom cited a report from the McKinsey Global Institute that showed that, for every dollar invested outside the U.S., $1.15 is returned.

"Global partnerships are a win-win for the U.S.," Nasscom spokesperson Shivani Srivasteva said. "They not only provide increased flexibility and profits for U.S. businesses, they also substantially increase demand for U.S. exports."

But protesters see only a substantial increase in bleeding. "We need the government to take action -- we can't wait," said Bauman. One solution, he said, is to give tax breaks to companies that don't send work offshore. Another is to hire foreign workers on temporary visas. Yet another is to slap a tax surcharge on companies for every job they ship overseas or for every temporary-visa worker they hire.

"We're saying this [has] to be reviewed and stopped," Tedesco said. "They're killing our middle class."

Other groups taking part in the protest, which begins today and runs through Thursday, include Rescue American Jobs, the Manufacturing Alliance of Connecticut, the Programmers Guild, the American Engineering Association and WashTech.

This isn't the first protest against offshore outsourcing to make news. Last September, about 50 labor leaders from the Bay Area joined jobless techies to protest the Brainstorm Group's Nearshore and Offshore Outsourcing Conference near San Francisco. The group, which claimed the offshore trend is destroying the Silicon Valley job community, promised more protests in the future.

Senior News Editor Kate Evans-Correia contributed to this report.


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