View from Lodi, CA: Outsourcing America?


In 1965, fresh out of college, I
went to work for the

United States Steel Corporation
.

How I ended up at Big Steel remains
a mystery. There could not have been 100 people in
Allegheny County who knew or cared less about steel than
I did.

But I was willing and eager.
Pittsburgh was the home of dozens of Fortune 500
companies—Westinghouse, National Steel, Alcoa, Jones and
Laughlin Steel to name a few. Back then, a young man
showing aptitude and spark had a pretty good chance.

I was hired as part of the sales
training program. For the next 18 months our group of 20
trainees went from mill to mill along the eastern
seaboard. In the mornings we watched wire, flat rolled
and tin plate manufactured. And in the afternoon, we
listened as product specialists told us why U.S. Steel
made the best steel in the world.

At the end of a year and a half, we
weren`t metallurgists but we knew a lot about steel.

My first assignment was in New York
assisting a salesman who sold specialty steel to
railroads. I processed the orders, checked the credit,
followed up with the mill and fielded the phone calls.
All the while, I was becoming savvier about life at a
big corporation.

In the mid-1960s, U.S. Steel
employed about 300,000 people. The workers had the
powerful United Steelworkers of America in their corner.
Their mill jobs were tough but they earned solid

middle-class wages
and had excellent health and
retirement benefits.

The sales and administrative
personnel rooted hard for the union at contract time.
Whatever they got, we got. And those were the days when
steel executives and the White House trembled when union
leaders expressed discontent.

In 1970, I moved to Banker`s Trust
where I learned the corporate finance ropes.  I crunched
numbers during my first year. But I moved quickly and
steadily upward. I always was looking for greener
pastures and when the opportunity to work in the
corporate finance division of Merrill Lynch came, I
grabbed it.

Fast forward to 2003. U.S. Steel
and the other Pittsburgh corporate giants are all but
gone. Gone too are the

blue-collar jobs
performed with pride and dignity
for

fair pay
and benefits.

For the last twenty years, the
focus at

corporate America
is on one thing only:

cheap labor
. There are no other considerations.

First shoe, low grade electronic
and

toy manufacturing
were sent to developing countries.
Then credit card receipt processing and

writing software code
went.

In the early 1990s,

Silicon Valley
howled that it could not find
software engineers and accordingly needed to import
workers from overseas. Congress complied by authorizing
65,000

H-1B visas
annually. The total gradually increased
to 115,000; then, 195,000.

Of course, the industry created the
“shortage” by firing American workers and replacing them
with the much less expensive foreign workers.

Even if there were a true shortage,
do you think for an instant that Silicon Valley would
hire the local

high-school student
and train him?

Fat chance.

Importing foreign workers to
displace Americans is shameless. But now the other shoe
has dropped.

Today, my old Banker`s Trust job
would be done offshore. According to the February 3
Business Week cover story titled

“The New Global Job Shift”
all kinds of work can and
is done anywhere.

Even
Wall Street jobs paying $80,000 and up are getting
easier to transfer. Brokerages like Lehman Brothers Inc.
and Bear, Stearns & Co. for example, are starting to use
Indian financial analysts for number-crunching work.

"You
will see an explosion of work going overseas," says
Forrester Research Inc. analyst John C. McCarthy. He
goes so far as to predict at least 3.3 million
white-collar jobs and $136 billion in wages will shift
from the U.S. to low-cost countries by 2015.

All this is music to the ears of
companies like Microsoft. Said Senior Vice President
Brian Valentine the company could get “quality work
at 50 to 60 percent of the cost,“
adding,
“that`s two heads for the price of one.“
Valentine
also urged managers to “pick a project and outsource
today.“

Added

Sivaramakichenane Somasegar
, Microsoft`s
vice-president for Windows engineering in reference to
moving jobs to India said. "If I can save a dollar,
hallelujah."

A backlash has already started. But
will anyone listen?

New Jersey legislators are pushing
a bill that would block the state from

outsourcing public jobs overseas
. At Boeing Co.,
[runner-up in our 2002
War Against Christmas Competition
]
an anxious union is attempting to
block more

job shifts
to the aircraft maker`s new 350-person
R&D center in – Moscow!

And the Washington Alliance of
Technology Workers (www.washtech.org)
started a nationwide Internet campaign calling for the
federal government to investigate the practice of U.S.
technology companies sending jobs overseas.

If outsourcing is allowed to
mushroom, then the

American economy
will slide into a long and deep
recession.

The combination of cheap imported
labor used by hotels,

construction
,

meat
and

poultry processing
, food and

restaurant
services and outsourcing high five figure
salaried jobs is a formula for disaster.

Joe Guzzardi [email
him], an instructor in English
at the Lodi Adult School, has been writing a weekly
column since 1988. It currently appears in the


Lodi News-Sentinel
.