Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Made in the USA

Okay, this is another soapbox posting, sparked by a piece of transcription I did yesterday. The work was for a company whose name I'm not allowed to give, but who, suffice it to say, is one of the major computer/printer/software/networking companies in the United States.

The subject of the transcription was a forum given by the company about outsourcing.

Now I am not against outsourcing as a rule. How could I be, being as how I work in that industry myself? The transcription I work on is outsourced from other companies. Outsourcing is wonderful. Outsourcing is our friend - not to mention my paycheck. It's merely a way that companies can be more efficient by hiring people who are more skilled in a certain area than people working in their own companies, who can be hired on an 'as needed' basis. People who pay their own tax, insurance, medical benefits, etc, which saves the hiring company money by not having to pay for a full-time worker with attendant benefits to do nothing until they're needed. My company pays me money, which I put back into the economy of the US, and everyone's happy.

No, the type of outsourcing which has got my goat is the kind known as offshore outsourcing. To the uninitiated this means major companies taking entire sections of their business, such as call centers, IT departments, financial departments, and HR departments and contracting with companies in other countries to do the work at a fraction of the cost they'd have to pay American companies to do it.

Why should this bother you? You're not in my industry. Well, here's why. The kind of outsourcing I do keeps work inside of the US. My wages go back into our economy every time I go to the store.

Offshore outsourcing on the other hand, takes jobs in American companies away from American workers and puts them in the hands of people in third world countries such as India and China. This money doesn't return to the American economy. It remains in the country where the outsourcing is performed when these people go to their own grocery stores. It puts whole departments of people out of work and chasing jobs in other companies - more and more of whom are going for the offshore option, meaning there are less US jobs to be had for Americans.

And these are the companies who are getting tax breaks from the government at the same time they're adding numbers to the US unemployment rolls, and getting richer on the backs of people in third world countries who will work for peanuts. There's something intrinsically unfair about that.

The good thing, of course, is that these companies can still stick a 'Made in the USA' sticker on their merchandise, because the company is an American company, despite the fact that when you buy this merchandise you're actually helping to put Americans out of work, rather than what you may believe you're doing. You're not helping the American economy in any shape or form, since wages in India and China don't wind up getting put back into the American economy. All you're doing is making rich companies richer, and putting your fellow Americans out of work.

There used to be company owners like Hershey - he of the chocolate empire in Pennsylvania - who cared so much about America and Americans that during the depression he actually had people working in his factory who were doing basically nothing. He was making work for them to do. All because he loved his country, and he figured he was rich enough and it wouldn't hurt him to give a little of it back by helping out his fellow man and keeping them off the bread lines.

When did the almighty dollar become the benchmark by which we measure success? When did it happen that years of loyalty to a company mean nothing when the option of offshore outsourcing comes up? And why are we rewarding these companies with tax breaks? Shouldn't it be more along the lines of making them pay a penalty if they are offloading American workers in order to hire workers in third world countries? Why reward people who are damaging the economic structure of the US to make a few extra dollars per hour off the backs of people they can work like dogs in conditions Americans wouldn't tolerate? And shouldn't something nasty befall companies who turn their customer service over to people who can barely speak English?

Apparently one of the hugest manufacturers of electrical equipment in the US were told by their CEO before he retired that what he wanted to see was 70 percent of the business being outsourced offshore, with 70 percent of that percentage being in India. 70 freaking percent. These are people's jobs we're talking about. And trust me...this is a company that is just about as 'Made in the USA' as you can get.

Since when did it happen that you get rewarded for putting people out of work so that you can make a profit? Maybe it's just because I'm an old hippie, but I think it's wrong.

A pox on all their houses.

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