TechsUnite is a union friendly discussion
group for issues that concern Information Technology
Across the country there is a new movement afoot-- high tech
workers are reassessing their commitment to "free trade". There are scores of
websites representing new organizations dedicated to fighting against the
scourge of offshoring. The movement is growing rapidly. Even right-wing,
reactionary sites such as Free Republic are experiencing heated discussions and
soul-searching about free trade vs. fair trade.
Anti-offshoring graphic images from Rebel
For those concerned about offshoring, one issue in
heated contention is immigration policy. The debate concerns whether
full attention should be focused upon the role of government and the
corporations, or whether the nation should step up deportations and seal the
borders. This is an important debate, inflamed by President Bush's proposed
guest worker policy, which may take center stage during the
(I am firmly in the "blame the corporations and the
government" camp. Get union cards into the hands of immigrants to protect living
On Shore Alternatives lists those
corporations that offshore, and those that don't.
For those not familiar with offshoring,
here is an article by Vermont Representative Bernie Sanders (the only
independent in the U.S. Congress).
Published on 11/4/2003 in the The Hill
Free Trade Means
America’s Biggest Export is its Jobs
by Rep. Bernie Sanders
Our economy has been decimated by “free” trade, and someone
has to point out that, like the proverbial naked emperor, our policies have no
clothes — or more appropriately in this context, no jobs making clothes, or
electronics, or a host of other products we use every day.
Unsurprisingly, proponents of an unfettered free-trade seem
unwilling to admit the error of their ways. This group, which includes virtually
all of corporate America, every major editorial board, as well as Presidents
George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Ronald Reagan, has told us
for decades how many new jobs free trade would create here at home. Now the
evidence is in and guess what — they were dead wrong. The exact opposite is
Largely because of our trade policies, manufacturing is in a
state of collapse. In the past three years, we have lost 2.7 million
manufacturing jobs, 16 percent of the total. At 14.7 million, we are at the
lowest number of factory jobs since 1958.
In 2002, the United States bought $435 billion more in goods
and services made in other countries than products and services made in the
United States. And this year, the deficit with China alone is expected to be
$120 billion, and getting worse. The National Association of Manufacturers
estimates that the deficit will grow to $330 billion in five years.
Our disastrous trade policy is not only costing us millions of
decent jobs but has put enormous downward pressure on wages as workers compete
for an ever-shrinking pool of jobs. Despite huge increases in productivity, real
wages for private-sector employees have dropped 8 percent since 1973. The
average American is working longer hours for lower wages and most middle-class
families now require two breadwinners to pay the bills. For entry-level workers
without a college education, the situation is far, far worse. Their real wages
have dropped more than 20 percent in the past 25 years.
The demise of well-paid manufacturing jobs is best illustrated
by the following: 20 years ago, the largest private employer in the United
States was General Motors, where workers earned — and still earn — a good
income. Today, our largest employer is Wal-Mart, where workers earn
It didn’t take a genius to predict that unfettered free trade
with China would be a disaster. With Chinese employees available at 50 cents an
hour, and with the ability to bring their Chinese-made products back into this
country tariff-free, why wouldn’t American corporations shut down their plants
in this country and move to China? Should anyone be surprised that Motorola
eliminated 42,900 American jobs in 2001 and invested $3.4 billion in China? Who
is shocked that General Electric threw tens of thousands of American workers out
on the street while investing over $1.5 billion in China? Honeywell is a
sophisticated company. Why wouldn’t we expect them to build 13 factories in
China, for American multinational corporations, is a great
place to do business, if by “do business” we mean making products for export to
the United States that companies previously made here at home. Wages are
extremely low in China, and if workers try to stand up for their rights and form
unions, they go to jail.
Environmental regulations are almost nonexistent, and, while
China becomes one of the most polluted countries on earth, companies don’t have
to “waste” money on environmental safeguards.
Over the years, free-trade advocates have tried to gloss over
the bad news about declining factory employment by promising that a new economy
was in the making — one in which Americans would be working at high wages in
high tech. Wrong again! Manufacturing jobs are not the only casualty of free
Estimates are that 560,000 high-tech jobs have been lost in
this country in the last two years and that many have ended up in India. More
ominous, according to Forrester Research, “over the next 15 years, 3.3 million
U.S. service industry jobs and $136 billion in wages will move offshore. The
Information Technology industry will lead the initial overseas exodus.”
According to the Booz Allen Hamilton consulting firm,
companies can lower costs by 80 percent by shifting tasks such as computer
programming, accounting and procurement to China. Among many companies moving
high-tech jobs abroad is Microsoft, which is spending $750 million over the next
three years on research and development and outsourcing in China.
So free trade has not only cost us our textile industry, our
shoe industry, our steel industry, our tool and die industry, our electronic
industry, our furniture industry and many others but will now cost us millions
of high tech jobs as well.
The United States needs to have a strong, positive
relationship with China, but that does not mean allowing corporate America and
its supporters in the White House and Congress to destroy the American middle
class by making jobs America’s No. 1 export. If we continue to force American
workers to “compete” against desperate people throughout the world, American
workers will continue to lose.
The United States is the most lucrative market in the world.
We need to leverage its value to achieve trade agreements that result in the
export of American products, not jobs.
A recent poll about free